The Graduate Workers Organizing Cooperative was formed by graduate-student workers at Colorado State University (CSU) in the early months of 2021 to address these mounting problems, not only with the return to in-person classes but also with the issues of student fees and cost of living adjustments. The group was a natural extension of existing community relationships, including ones between mutual-aid groups in and around Fort Collins, local Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) members, and volunteers with the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC), the organizing project created by DSA and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America union (UE), which has helped guide the cooperative through the early stages of organizing.
Backed by a proposal written by the dean of CSU’s graduate school, Mary Stromberger, that detailed how the university is running far behind its peer institutions in regards to pay and support, they delivered a petition asking President Joyce McConnell and the Board of Governors to accept the proposal’s terms, as well as several other items including the end of additional fees for international students. The petition was ultimately not adopted, but that hasn’t stopped the group. In an interview with EWOC volunteers Wen Zhuang and Samuel Fleischman, members of the organizing committee and organizers from EWOC discuss the successes and failures of their nascent campaign, how this recent effort has proved more effective than previous organizing attempts, the uniqueness of their situation as a top-tier public research school in Colorado, and their plans for the summer.