Statement from United Campus Workers – Virginia Tech

VT Campus Workers present on their experience and vision at the Western Virginia AFL-CIO Labor Federation
VT Campus Workers present on their experience and vision at the Western Virginia AFL-CIO Labor Federation

Today, we announce that we are extending Labor Day at Virginia Tech! As the student-workers, staff, and faculty that make this university run, we proudly announce the formation of a labor union, United Campus Workers of Virginia Tech, an affiliate of a statewide campus worker union, UCW-VA (CWA Local 2265). Anyone directly employed by Virginia Tech–full-time staff, part-time staff, tenured and tenure-track faculty, non-tenure-track faculty, adjunct instructors, administrative and professional faculty, and student workers–are eligible. And we could not be more proud to make this announcement alongside a union sibling, the Virginia Tech Graduate Labor Union (VT GLU).

There is a proud tradition in this country and in southwest Virginia of workers banding together and taking collective action to improve the conditions of our workplace and community, and we humbly enter into that tradition.

Campus workers at Virginia Tech are also students here. We’re alumni. We’re aunts and uncles to future graduates. We’re parents throwing parties for our kids who have been accepted into graduate programs. We’re the loudest fans at football games, the representatives of Virginia Tech at academic conferences, and the faculty and administrators who stay up to write letters of recommendation out of a commitment that our students receive every possible opportunity.

Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. Virginia Tech students will be served by a democratic campus worker organization that tirelessly advocates for policies and practices that support student success. Our students deserve instructor-to-student and advisor-to-student ratios that are low enough to allow individualized attention and support. They deserve to be taught by professors and instructors who are fairly compensated and have job security so they can lean on these trusted relationships for the duration of their college experience. VT students are more likely to receive that higher standard of support when our labor union is pushing against austerity and instead demanding robust public funding for state universities in Virginia. A university that can rely on consistent, sufficient public funding can keep tuition low, making the Virginia Tech experience more accessible to students across the Commonwealth and the country.

We believe every campus worker at Virginia Tech deserves a democratic voice, respect, job security, safety, and fair compensation. We want every single Virginia Tech student to know that participating in collective action to advocate for yourself and others is one of the proudest traditions we have here at Virginia Tech.

Indeed, it exemplifies ut prosim. Indeed, our partners on this day, VT GLU, already offer an inspiring example of what can be accomplished through collective action. Graduate student workers have been organizing on our campus for respect and a living wage. Their success in winning raises for over 700 graduate student workers is a testament to the power of collective action. They have shared with us that in response to their organizing, campus workers of other classifications have often asked how they can get involved. Our efforts today humbly attempt to offer a response. There is much work to do, but we know that if we can match the commitment and success of the member-leaders of VT GLU, we can achieve transformative changes. We pledge enduring solidarity to VT GLU, and we also join them in expressing solidarity with the carpenters union who have been fighting to receive fair market pay for their work on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg and Northern Virginia campuses.

UCW-VT has been built by VT campus workers pushing for Virginia Tech to honor its highest ideals. Our members have already organized for increased protections for students and workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted the need for expanded disability protection. We’ve successfully organized to close gender pay gaps in key departments and pushed for solutions that don’t involve layoffs for others. We’ve demanded democratic governance in the face of poorly considered top-down initiatives and held the university to its climate justice pledges. Our members also launched the #DefendVT effort, where over 500 campus workers, students, alums, and parents demanded explanation and course correction on a policy that constitutes a massive expansion of VT’s surveillance capability.

Our efforts, alongside VT-GLU have led to real change for Virginia Tech campus workers. Through a commitment to collective action, solidarity, and democratic workers organization, we know we can achieve even more.

Together, we can build the Virginia Tech we deserve. One where students receive support and an education consistent with a world-class university, regardless of their zip code. Where workers’ and students’ governing roles are honored and shared governance is recognized as necessary and beneficial to the future of Virginia Tech. The Virginia Tech we deserve means a university where we can teach and conduct research under the full protection of academic freedom. We deserve a university free from systemic discrimination along the lines of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, nationality, age, or ability. Indeed, we deserve a university that not only intervenes proactively, but that is preparing a generation of young people to stand up to the forces of systemic oppression.

As a public institution of higher education, and especially as a land-grant institution with the motto of ut prosim, we owe it to our students, their families, and our communities to provide our students with the best possible learning conditions. Virginia Tech will only reach its full potential when campus workers play a true democratic role in shaping the policies that affect us. We are exercising our rights under federal law and Virginia state code to form a labor union and to do so without retaliation. We invite the university leadership to see the opportunity to view us as committed partners in achieving a Virginia Tech able to fulfill the promise of ut prosim. WE are Virginia Tech. Onwards together.

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