Opinion guest column

An MIT-quality labor agreement

A union contract that benefits all

Collective bargaining between MIT’s graduate student workers and administration is about to officially begin. Unfortunately, both sides are already off to a disappointing start. The administration and union organizers have been too focused on rhetoric and not enough on honesty. The best thing for MIT is to stop this one-side-versus-the-other mentality and instead work together to make an MIT-quality collective bargaining agreement.

In a recent email, Chancellor Melissa Nobles and Provost Cynthia Barnhart made a promise of good-faith negotiations. The same email also included misleading facts and statements meant to intimidate student workers. When unfair academic policies facilitate discrimination and wrongful terminations, they are absolutely on the bargaining table. The days of unilateral policy making are coming to an end. Shame on Chancellor Nobles, Provost Barnhart, and anyone else that tries to oppress student workers using deception or threats.

Some student union organizers are also attempting to deceive to get what they want. I’ve received carefully worded emails that were technically true but also misleading. I’ve been to organizing events that conveniently left out a few facts. I’ve spoken with organizers that wanted to win the election more than they wanted every student worker to vote. Shame on any union organizer that made a misleading claim or viewed a fellow graduate student worker as the opposition.

A fair collective bargaining agreement will benefit everyone at MIT, but we are off to a pathetic start in achieving this goal. It’s time to forget about the student workers’ issues and the administration’s issues. We all need to work together to solve MIT’s issues. That is the best and fastest way for everyone to shift focus back to research.

When our community works together, people around the world take notice. The institution that goes after problems like climate change and nuclear fusion had better be able to negotiate a fair union contract. Being honest, open to dialogue, and willing to compromise can soon result in a fair labor agreement. Using only methods we can be proud of, let's quickly sign a contract that will be the model for other universities to use. Now is the time for MIT to develop the world's best student union contract.

Joe Smolsky is a sixth-year PhD candidate in physics.