CSU administration accused of targeting grad worker union

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Collegian | Devin Cornelius

Three protesters lead the Labor Rally group as they march toward the Colorado State University Board of Governors meeting at the Lory Student Center May 3, 2022.

JJ McKinney

Sophia Masia, Staff Reporter

Sept. 14, the Graduate Workers Organizing Cooperative received a tip that the Colorado State University administration was ordering the custodial team to discard all GWOC pro-union posters.

According to their website, GWOC is a union that advocates for Colorado State University graduate workers.

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In a post on GWOC’s Instagram account, screenshots show a message to GWOC from an anonymous CSU custodial worker explaining they were given orders to take down any of GWOC’s fliers.

“We wanted to figure out who is deciding this and why,” Alex Pelissero, a fourth-year Ph.D. student and treasurer of GWOC said. “Nobody else’s posters were being targeted.” 

“A big push for us was a report by Colleen Webb (and other graduate school representatives) comparing our stipends and fees we have to pay out of pocket at CSU compared to our peer universities, and we are behind. We are losing a lot of people who can’t come here just because our stipends are too low and the fees we pay out of pocket are outrageous.” –Débora Nunes, founding member and secretary of the Graduate Workers Organizing Cooperative

Pelissero and Débora Nunes, founding member and secretary of GWOC, posted the redacted screenshots on GWOC’s Instagram and emailed the CSU facilities manager hoping for an explanation as to why their posters were being targeted. However, they received a response from the vice president of facilities management with lawyers, police and administration copied on it. 

“Several custodians told us about very specific instructions to take down only our material,” Nunes said. “They say that (the posters) don’t comply to CSU regulations, but almost none of those posters out there do.”

Members say the email gave no indication as to what the posters were in violation of — just that they did not comply.

“We took it very obviously as a soft power move, just sort of flexing their muscle because they saw our post calling them out for union busting,” Pelissero said.

Pelissero and other members of GWOC have doubled down on putting up their posters since this incident despite the pushback from administration.

Nik Olsen, the director of integrative communications with the university’s strategic communications team, gave a statement on behalf of CSU about the incident.

“Facilities crews are regularly asked to remove posters and flyers that do not adhere to university policy,” Olsen said. “With respect to the First Amendment, the university must remain content neutral when enforcing this policy. The issue is not the message or the responsible group; it is the prohibited posting on university property without official permission, as per the policy.”

“We have continued putting up posters in spite of them taking them down, but postering is not our main goal as an organization,” said Andrew Feder, first-year graduate student and GWOC member.

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Nunes said the organization is focused on waiving student fees and fighting for higher stipends and better working conditions.

“A big push for us was a report by Colleen Webb (and other graduate school representatives) comparing our stipends and fees we have to pay out of pocket at CSU compared to our peer universities, and we are behind,” Nunes said. “We are losing a lot of people who can’t come here just because our stipends are too low and the fees we pay out of pocket are outrageous.” 

The report found CSU pays its graduate workers less than peer institutions, yet it charges them around double in fees for amenities that GWOC members like Feder feel — more often than not — they don’t use.

“Universities in expensive places pay their student workers more,” Feder said. “We have to hide getting second jobs to afford living in Fort Collins.”

Those interested can learn more about GWOC and their mission on their website and follow their social media platforms for updates.

Reach Sophia Masia at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @sophie_masia.