Many Labor Studies students are committed activists, both on and off campus. Recently our students have organized around sweatshop issues, immigrant rights, Black Lives Matter, the exploitation of Wal-Mart workers, privatization, and affirmative action, as well as building alliances with other student organizations.
Labor Studies students have also been leaders in the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO/UAW), affiliated with the United Auto Workers, which 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.
There are also opportunities to be involved with the Labor Extension program. The 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 western Massachusetts. In addition, the Labor Center brings nationally-recognized labor leaders and activists to campus, inviting area labor leaders, students and faculty to engage in discussion on current issues and debates. Labor Center graduate students also organize their own events, often with other organizations on campus or in the area.