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Brown to voluntarily recognize Third World Labor Organization

Recognition pends review of union authorization cards

TWLO Organizers announced their intent to unionize last Wednesday at a Labor for Palestine rally.
TWLO Organizers announced their intent to unionize last Wednesday at a Labor for Palestine rally.

The University is prepared to recognize the Third World Labor Organization — a union representing student workers at the Brown Center for Students of Color — pending the review of signed union authorization cards demonstrating majority support among student employees, the organization announced in a Thursday Instagram post.

Organizers announced the formation of the TWLO at a Labor for Palestine rally last Wednesday, The Herald previously reported. If recognized, the union will represent BCSC’s roughly 50 student employees.

During the rally, TWLO organizers delivered a letter to the office of President Christina Paxson P’19 P’MD’20 requesting voluntary recognition by 12 p.m. on Feb. 15. If the University declined to voluntarily recognize TWLO, organizers announced that they would ask the National Labor Relations Board to facilitate an election which would require formal recognition with support from a majority of BCSC employees.

Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes informed TWLO organizers of the University’s readiness to voluntarily recognize the union upon authorization card verification in an emailed letter on Wednesday afternoon, according to a copy of the email obtained by The Herald. 


Recognition is conditional upon “a review of signed union authorization cards (showing) that organizers have a majority support among the student employees at the Brown Center for Students of Color,” according to University Spokesperson Brian Clark.

Seventy-three percent of BCSC’s student workers voted in support of unionization, according to organizers at last Wednesday’s rally. 

“This is an important step forward for Brown Center of Students of Color student workers in advocating for adequate pay, working conditions and job security,” TWLO organizer Jo Ouyang ’26, a BCSC minority peer counselor, wrote in an email to The Herald. “This is also proof of the power of students of color in taking collective action together.”

Student workers at the BCSC were motivated to unionize by their concerns over alleged “censorship” of the Center’s programming, fears of potential future defunding as retaliation for students’ political activism and the “depoliticization” of the BCSC, according to a Feb. 7 Instagram post from the labor organization. 

University administrators at the Brown Center for Students of Color did not respond to requests for comment on the students’ allegations.

“The University will respect the choice made by students as demonstrated in signed union authorization cards and we will not engage in, or tolerate, any conduct which interferes with or seeks to inappropriately influence student choices,” Estes wrote, responding to student organizers’ demand in their initial recognition request that the University commit not to engage in anti-union activity.

In the letter sent to TWLO organizers on Wednesday, Estes recommended that the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service “be engaged as an independent third party without charge to review the signed cards and compare it against a roster of student employees.”

The union plans to work with the FMCS for the authorization card verification process, Ouyang wrote in a message to The Herald.

At the rally, organizers noted the role of advocacy as part of the “political legacy of the Third World Center” — the former name of the Center for Students of Color — The Herald previously reported

Once recognized, TWLO will become the fifth student labor union on campus, joining the Graduate Labor Organization, Teaching Assistant Labor Organization, Labor Organization of Community Coordinators and Brown University Postdoc Labor Organization. With the exception of GLO, all formed in the last year.


Ethan Schenker

Ethan Schenker is a Senior Staff Writer covering staff and student labor. He is from Bethesda, MD, and plans to study International and Public Affairs and Economics. In his free time, he enjoys playing piano and clicking on New York Times notifications.

Jennifer Shim

Jennifer Shim is a University News editor overseeing the staff and student labor beat. She is a sophomore studying Applied Math-Economics. Outside of The Herald, you can find her playing NYT Connections.

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