Fordham’s Graduate Student Workers Rally During Three-Day Walk-Out Demonstration


The second day of the walkout occurred outside the Lincoln Center campus. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Members and supporters of Fordham’s Graduate Student Workers Union (FGSW) rallied on April 25 outside of the Rose Hill campus during their three-day walk-out demonstration in support of the union’s ongoing bargaining process with the university. Yesterday, the second day of the walkout, was the first event at Rose Hill after Monday’s rally occurred outside the Lincoln Center campus.
FGSW members and supporters met by the Metro-North gate to campus to show their displeasure with the university. Members chanted, “hey, hey, ho, ho, union-busting’s got to go,” among other chants, walking back and forth across the gate while holding signs in support of the union. Additionally, rallygoers brought things like noisemakers and held signs asking for passing cars to honk to support the union.

The walkout came in response to ongoing contract negotiations with the university, which have been largely stagnant according to many FGSW members.

“The first contract is usually finished early on, I think a year, year and a half, and at this point, if we didn’t walk out, we weren’t going to build any more momentum towards a contract that could be negotiated in a reasonable time frame,” said Shawn Brewer, a second-year Ph.D. student in the philosophy department, and a member of FGSW’s bargaining team. “So, the reason we chose to do it right now is because of a longer strategy to basically push momentum towards a contract that would be to our liking. Otherwise, we would have just kept going in the way we were going. It was just going to continuously basically delay any type of progress on the contract and would have made the process far longer than it should be.”

Mark Himmelstein, a graduate student in the psychology department and another member of FGSW’s bargaining team, said the university’s conduct also prompted the walkout during negotiations. Himmelstein said that the university has “failed” to provide “sufficient information” to FSGW that they need to negotiate, like names of the people involved in the bargaining unit, their positions, the amount they are being paid, etc. Himmelstein said this conduct prompted them to file an unfair labor practice with the university.

“Whenever you file an unfair labor practice, one of the means we will often take is that we will show them that we don’t approve of their unfair labor practice, and we’re going to walk out of the job as a part of negotiations,” said Himmelstein.
On April 20, President Tania Tetlow sent an email to Fordham students regarding the walkout and FGSW negotiations. The university urged graduate students to reject the call to cancel their classes. In an additional email from Provost Dennis Jacobs on April 21, it was claimed that canceling classes harms the undergraduate population.

“We understand the desire of every student (and every person) to have a living wage, affordable housing, and free child care. But what we do not understand is the expectation that Fordham, a non-profit and a school, could provide all of this for its own students. Indeed, because we are almost entirely tuition-dependent, the demand presents serious equity issues. It would effectively require us to redirect the tuition dollars paid by undergraduates and other graduate students to provide full, personal financial support for the 360 students represented by this union,” wrote Tetlow in the email.

The email also highlighted some of FGSW’s demands, explaining their stance on each issue and outlining the current package many graduate students already receive. In the email sent by Jacobs, he stated that “the University has negotiated with the FGSW in good faith.”

Later in the same email, Jacobs said: “Unfortunately, the FGSW has not kept the focus on substantive issues. For instance, after six months of bargaining, the FGSW still has not brought forward all of its economic proposals for the university to consider. Instead, the FGSW has focused during negotiations on topics that reach beyond the scope of its particular bargaining unit, on debating the meaning of well-understood words such as ‘event’ and on the precise means by which their members will submit certain paperwork.”

In response to the emails sent, members of FGSW expressed disappointment in the university, claiming that the university misrepresented their demands.

“We were disappointed by the tone of [the emails]. We think there was a lot of misrepresentation. We are also relieved that the university is telling the public what their perspective on the negotiations are, so not just the public, but so that we can get an understanding of their perspective because their bargaining team hasn’t given us a great understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes and what the university’s perspective and motives are,” said Himmelstein. “We feel that they’ve been very withholding of where they’re hoping to go with these negotiations, and so this gave us a little more insight to where things are at.”

The Fordham Ram reached out to the university for comment and was told it does not have any additional comments at this time. Attendants of the walkout say they chose to participate to show the university their demands and what the union stands for.

“Personally, I think it’s important just to show that we know our worth. We know we’re not being treated fairly at the bargaining table or being bargained in good faith with. We know we’re not going to be taken advantage of, and we’re standing up for that,” said Molly McCargar, a graduate student and worker in the biology department.

“For me, it’s about standing in solidarity with my peers and my colleagues and recognizing that you know we love our students and we really appreciate our work in this university and we hope through this work we can make it better. And hopefully, it will be an invitation to Fordham to better live out its values around Catholic social teaching surrounding workers,” said Sadie Yates, graduate student and worker in the theology department.

The walkout also attracted support from undergraduate students.

“Just to be frank, I’m disappointed in the university. It’s just sad that the school is professing all of these ideological beliefs about cura personalis and they’re representing the general social Catholic spirit, and yet I’m not seeing any of that,” said Charles Thompson, FCRH ’26.

Following the second day of the walkout, FGSW is hosting a final closing rally on the Rose Hill campus on April 26.