UMass Amherst
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Labor Activism

Student activism and engagement with the local labor community complements the academic and research activities of the Labor Center. We are a training, education, research, and support resource for the Pioneer Valley and Hampshire-Franklin Labor Councils, Western Mass Jobs with Justice, the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, and local and regional unions. We provide similar support for the University's own labor council, a coalition of the seven unions representing the seven thousand employees on campus. The Center occasionally brings nationally recognized labor leaders and activists to campus, inviting area labor leaders, students and faculty to engage in discussion on current issues and trends.

The Labor Extension program, based at the four University of Massachusetts campuses in Amherst, Boston, Dartmouth, and Lowell, provides education and training for unions and union members, as well as community organization and other workers' groups. For example, recent workshops on workers' rights have led to efforts to develop an immigrant workers' rights network here in the Valley. 

Labor Center graduate students are encouraged to participate in these activities and projects, as well as initiating their own activities. Recently our students have organized around sweatshop issues, immigrant rights, the exploitation of Wal-Mart workers, privatization, and affirmative action, as well as building alliances with other student organizing groups.

The Graduate Employee Organization (GEO), affiliated with the United Auto Workers, represents all teaching and research assistants at the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. Formed in 1987, GEO is one of only a few graduate student unions across the country.

GEO provides an excellent opportunity for Labor Center students to develop skills and gain hands-on union experience. Labor Center students have served as volunteers, officers, and paid union staff in GEO. They have been involved in handling grievances, conducting contract negotiations, and doing political and organizing work on and off campus.

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