This month’s questions, asked by Jessamyn Yenni, asks “What are the benefits to workers of being unionized? Why might the workers choose to have one or go without?”
Response from Jaclyn:
Unions matter because as workers, we can leverage our power towards improving our working conditions. I’m a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and an activist with the UIC Graduate Employees Organization (GEO). We as UIC GEO negotiate a contract with the University that guarantees a minimum wage, benefits including affordable health care and paid personal time, protections against overwork, discrimination, sexual harassment, and more. Though most of our members are Teaching Assistants, every year several of our members work at theJane Addams Hull-House Museum and Gallery 400, making them part of a rare group of workers in our country — unionized museum workers.
As a unionized museum worker, I earned higher wages than my non-union counterparts (museum staff members who were undergraduates or not graduate workers at UIC) and had access to the above benefits and protections that they did not. And I had access to a formal grievance procedure for when the benefits and protections in my contract needed to be enforced. Union activities were a source of tension and fear for the museum’s administration. But I would always prefer to be part of a union. First, for the benefits, protections, and camaraderie. Additionally, for our part in strengthening working conditions across campus, and the workers’ movement writ large. And big picture: the higher wages and stability that union membership offers have the potential to make the field more accessible and sustainable for workers across lines of privilege.
This conversation was facilitated by Alyssa Greenberg from Museum Workers Speak