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Student Labor Alliance invites on-campus, local organizations for State of the Unions meeting

Groups discuss ongoing organizing efforts, call for continued student support

<p>Presenters stressed the importance of learning about labor unions and movements as vital first steps to getting involved in organizing.</p>

Presenters stressed the importance of learning about labor unions and movements as vital first steps to getting involved in organizing.

“If the boss gets in the way, we’re gonna roll right over him, gonna roll the union on.”

This chant echoed throughout the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center Sunday afternoon as students, campus labor activists and local union organizers gathered in the Petteruti Lounge for the Student Labor Alliance’s State of the Unions meeting.

The meeting brought together on-campus labor movements and those from the greater Providence and Boston areas for an opportunity to share updates on their organizing efforts, said SLA organizer Marshal King ’25. Conference coordinators opened the event by encouraging attendees to sit on the floor, sing union chants and interact with their neighbors.

“The labor movement is hot. It's sexy. It's fun,” King said. “We're anti-work, but we’re pro-labor. We’re pro-joy.”


Genevieve Baldwin ’25, a member and organizer of SLA, emphasized the importance of inviting both on- and off-campus labor organizers to the event. “When we say that workers make this campus run,” she said, “we mean workers that are employed by (the University) and workers in the larger city of Providence.”

Union members presented their groups’ histories, current actions and future goals after an introduction by Baldwin, King and Maddock Thomas ’26, another SLA organizer. Members from Teaching Assistant Labor Organization, Graduate Labor Organization, Teamsters Joint Council 10 New England, UNITE HERE Local 26 and United Food and Commercial Workers Local Union 328, among other groups, spoke at the meeting.

Throughout the conference, presenters repeatedly emphasized that learning about labor movements is the vital first step to getting involved in organizing.

“I know a lot of the labor solidarity with young people is like, ‘hey, show up at the picket line,’ ” said Paul Weiskel, who presented on behalf of Teamsters Joint Council 10, which represents 45,000 Teamsters in 21 local unions in New England. “But I want people to see themselves as organizers” as well, he added.

Student activists echoed this sentiment and pointed out the unique power students have on Brown’s campus. “Students are one of the (main) voices that the University will listen to because we pay the tuition,” Baldwin said. 

Harshini Venkatachalam ’23, who presented on behalf of TALO, wrote in a message to The Herald that the event was critical for “building community and sharing resources” among local labor movements.

“Events like this make our communities stronger,” Venkatachalam said.

Baldwin said that the State of the Unions event shows how the labor movement is “alive and well” in Rhode Island. “It's powerful to get people in a room together to see each other's faces,” she added. It reminds organizers “how this is a united fight that we're all in together.”

“It was really interesting to see how different kinds of unions learn from each other,” said Anushka Kataruka ’24, a student who attended the event. She enjoyed experiencing how unions “listened to each other” despite being in “completely different industries.”

Maru Attwood ’24, another student who attended the event, said she appreciated the opportunity to learn about different labor movements. “I'm definitely keen … to get more involved with SLA and support events where I can.”


Ashley Cai

Ashley Cai is a Senior Staff Writer from Los Altos, California covering the staff and student labor beat. She is a Brown-RISD Dual Degree studying computer science, IAPA and graphic design. She is also a member of The Herald's Tech Team.


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