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GLO pickets around encampment, protests Brown’s response to pro-Palestinian activism

Bargaining unit members participating in the encampment are in violation of University policy, according to a University spokesperson

At the encampment on the Main Green Thursday afternoon, graduate student workers rallied at a demonstration organized by the Graduate Labor Organization to protest recent updates to Brown’s communications around activism.

After the rally, organizers with the Palestine Solidarity Caucus — a branch of the Graduate Labor Organization — led a picket line of roughly 300 attendees and hosted speeches from activist groups and Professor of Comparative Literature and Modern Culture and Media Ariella Azoulay.

GLO has three open complaints of unfair labor practices against the University. Two of the three accuse Brown of violating federal labor law that gives employees the right to “strike, picket and protest regarding work-related issues.” 

GLO filed the most recent ULP complaint March 12, the day after the University announced that it was updating its FAQ on protests to include a new section describing policies around labor union activism. GLO organizers allege that the update amounted to a “retaliatory threat of discipline” against the union.

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“As is its right, the University expects unions and their leaders and members, when conducting protests and demonstrations advancing a political or other type of opinion on matters unrelated to their employment, to abide by Brown policies including those related to the use of University spaces,” the University announcement stated.

In a message to The Herald, University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote that members of the union’s bargaining unit still violate University policy while participating in an encampment “on Brown University’s historic and residential greens.”

Representatives for the union are also arguing that actions related to its divestment campaign, which it has made central to its organizing this semester, are “employment-related” and thus constitute protected activity under federal labor law.

“I need these institutions to understand that Palestine is my working conditions,” Razek told attendees.

When asked if GLO members’ participation in protests for divestment and the encampment were protected under federal labor law, Clark reiterated the March 11 announcement and emphasized the phrase “political or other type of opinion on matters unrelated to their employment.” 

The March 11 update also stated that while unions have the legal right to protest their employer regarding work-related issues, “the right to engage in these activities depends on the object or purpose of the action, its timing and/or the conduct of those involved.” 

“Individuals are not absolved from abiding by Brown policies by virtue of union membership,” Clark wrote in a previous email to The Herald. 

Speakers at the picket included Isabella Garo ’24 — one of the 41 students arrested for trespassing during a University Hall sit-in in December — and student representatives from the Third World Labor Organization and Brown Postdoc Labor Organization. Azoulay, who followed Garo, was the only faculty member to speak. 

Azoulay decried the portrayal of the Jewish community as ideologically homogeneous, a sentiment that a number of Jewish students have also articulated in interviews with The Herald. “This movement is about truth-telling — not only about freedom of speech, as they try to tell us when they say that they will protect freedom of speech on campus,” Azoulay said, referencing a Wednesday email from President Christina Paxson.

Janek Schaller ’24 and John Bellaire ’25, who are former and current tour guides, respectively, also spoke at the rally. Schaller was demoted from his position and subsequently resigned in early February after sending a Slack message in which he wrote that he had “cooperated with other organizers” to allow for “tour disruptions to happen in a safe and controlled manner,” The Herald previously reported.

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“These demonstrations might reshape our understanding of our work as student representatives in pivotal moments on our campus,” Schaller said at the picket.

Janek’s demotion is at the center of the second open ULP case GLO leaders filed against the University. 

Logan Powell, Brown’s associate provost for enrollment and dean of undergraduate admission, previously told The Herald that he cannot comment on “individual, confidential employment matters.” 

“We are supportive of all of our tour guides and want to provide them with the time, space and safety they need in their roles as campus ambassadors,” he wrote. “We are committed to a positive and productive partnership with the tour guides within the framework of University values and policies.”

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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.



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