COGS President Reflects on Past Fights

By President, Michael Goldberg

Contact Michael at [email protected]

When I was an undergraduate student here at the University of Iowa, COGS was in its infancy. Less than ten years old, the full tuition stipend hadn’t yet been won, and graduate students were still paying all of their fees. I remember seeing actions, reading op-eds, and hearing my TAs talk about their struggles. They wanted adequate compensation, enough to live off of. They wanted to have their tuition and fees covered, so they didn’t have to pay for the privilege of working. They wanted to be treated fairly by their employers.

Now, our circumstances are better, but our desires are the same. We still pay the University every semester, some graduate students paying nearly a month’s salary. We still want to be paid enough to be able to afford rent and groceries. We still want to be treated fairly by our employers, and to not worry that we will be overworked and undervalued.

COGS continues to work hard toward these goals. At the negotiation table last year, we won a significant pay increase. Last October, we had over 1500 graduate employees vote to recertify, sending an irrefutable signal that COGS is graduate workers’ chosen representative. This semester, we have made contact with 35 departments across campus, including many that we haven’t heard from in a while. We are working hard to hear your voices and improve our situation through collective action.

1997 COGS Coordinating Committee Bargains for first COGS contract

We need your help! More people means more voices, more ears, more unique stories to tell. Below are five actions you can take, and none of them would take much of your time. If every member does just one of these actions this month, that’s hundreds of hours of work towards making the University of Iowa and Iowa City a better place to work and live.

(1) If you teach, tell your students about COGS and about the life of a graduate student worker. Undergraduates can be powerful allies.

(2) Come to the next General Membership Meeting, and tell your department colleagues about what COGS is doing.

(3) Volunteer to be a Representative or a Steward for your department. To learn more about these positions, come to the next General Membership Meeting!

(4) Take a few minutes to talk to each of your classmates about COGS. In the few minutes before class starts, ask how many are members, how many have heard of COGS, and what they know about unions. Want ideas about how to have these conversations? Let us know!

(5) Volunteer to spend an hour with our organizer, David. Having organizing conversations, and getting new members, is always easier with someone who can speak directly to the graduate employee experience. Email us at [email protected] to volunteer.

Thank you for being a member of COGS. Your support is crucial to what we do. We can’t thank you enough for any amount of time or energy you can give in order to strengthen our collective voice. Graduate employees like you were out organizing back when I was an undergrad! Our fight continues. Remember, the university works because we do!