For the last year, some graduate students have pushed for unionization — with plans to join the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. (That follows the union's successful effort to organize adjunct professors at the school.) The Graduate Workers' Union Organizing Committee currently has fifteen members.
"They're a myriad of things we are hoping to improve," Santino says. "A big one for me is improving healthcare. Essentially, we're afforded minimum coverage under the Affordable Care Act."
Yifan Diao, who is originally from China, is in his first year as a Ph.D. candidate and holds an F-1 visa. Diao has been on the committee for two weeks, but has been telling other students about the union for the last two months.
"I think international students have the same rights as American students," says Diao. "I think it's important for international students who think 'it's not my business, I don't care about the union' to know that we have the same rights."
After the FAQ, international students began to fear deportation should graduate student workers unionize. The FAQ also noted that universities "are legally required to report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Department of Homeland Security) if a student fails to maintain status."
However, under the National Labor Relations Act, Policy says, employees have the right to take action with coworkers regardless of their immigration status.
Thorp maintains that the original FAQ was accurate, but largely misinterpreted by students.
"I think the initial material we put on our FAQ, while factually accurate, was not explicit on this particular point," Thorp says. "We would treat them [international students] the same way we would our DACA students." The advisory was never meant to threaten deportation, he says.
Students still plan to rally at 10:45 this morning in front of Danforth University Center.
"Essentially, it's our first display of how many graduate students publicly support this effort," Santino says.
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