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
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