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To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Brandeis employees hold rally

On Tuesday, April 16, union and non-union Brandeis workers as well as students gathered and spoke outside the Bernstein-Marcus Administration Center. In attendance were between 40 and 60 people, the majority of whom are current employees of Brandeis. 

The goals of this rally were to show solidarity between three unions active on campus (facilities staff with 32BJ SEIU, librarians and library support staff with SEIU Local 888, and graduate student workers with SEIU Local 509) as well as with non-unionized workers and other members of the campus community. 

About 10 people, including members of the individual unions, representatives for the non-unionized workers and students and professors standing in solidarity, spoke at the rally. All speeches were interpreted, on the spot, either into Spanish or English, to ensure everyone in attendance was able to understand. 

The three unions represented all have contracts with Brandeis that expire on June 30. Various speakers emphasized that, while each union has their individual needs, the larger issues being fought over are the same. Fair salaries and wages, more paid time off, better retirement and health insurance, protection from layoffs and health and safety protections. All of these concerns were echoed by non-unionized workers, who reported being severely understaffed and expressed concern over the fact that they would not see wage increases until October.  

A lack of salary adjustments for inflation was repeatedly brought up by union and non-union workers. Nearly every Brandeis worker that spoke mentioned struggling financially as a result of Brandeis’s salaries not matching the extremely high cost of living in the greater Boston area.

Two undergraduate students made speeches in solidarity with Brandeis workers. One student speaker expressed, “It’s every single one of you doing every single type of work on this campus that makes sure that Brandeis is the special place that it is. … In this fight for a strong contract, we stand with you because your working conditions are our learning conditions.”

The central message of this rally was that the Brandeis community stands together in the fight for fair treatment of campus workers. Every speech ended with the same sentiment, quoted here from a member of SEIU Local 888, “Let’s show [the administration] they can’t hide from us. They have to reckon with us. We are a force to be reckoned with when we’re united together.”

Regarding future rallies, a representative I spoke to after the speeches, stated that, depending on how negotiations go, “… we’re certainly ready to demonstrate our solidarity again. And we may do it here, we may do it off campus to try to attract more press to a public space.”

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