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Friday, June 21, 2024
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Graduate workers’ union elects Joey Sechrist as new head

Sechrist, a prominent voice in campus activism, has been involved with GSEU since 2019

<p>Sechrist has served in GSEU for six semesters, including three as vice president and another three as lead organizer. &nbsp;</p>

Sechrist has served in GSEU for six semesters, including three as vice president and another three as lead organizer.  

Joey Sechrist has been elected to serve as the next chapter president of the Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU), the union that represents UB’s graduate student workers, GSEU announced Friday. Sechrist starts on March 1 and will replace Lawrence Mullen, who has held the position for over three years. 

Sechrist’s election comes just a week after GSEU began contract negotiations with New York State. As president, Sechrist says they will fight for “higher wages and better benefits, stronger workplace protections, and an end to pay-to-work fees for all TAs and GAs.”

“I see unions as an effective means by which workers can democratize the conditions of their own labor and help build a world where labor serves the needs and desires of all, rather than the profits of the few,” Sechrist said in an email to The Spectrum. “UB president Satish Tripathi will take home over $800,000 this year, while graduate workers will still get paid $14,000 short of a living wage for Erie County if the current rate remains. This is antidemocratic and unacceptable at an institution that claims to value equity.” 

Sechrist — a Ph.D. candidate in English who researches proletarian literature, Marxist-feminism, and social reproduction theory — got involved with GSEU and the Living Stipend Movement shortly after arriving at UB in 2019. Since then, they have served in GSEU leadership for six semesters, including three as vice president and another three as lead organizer. Sechrist said they, Mullen and other graduate student workers helped “transform GSEU at the campus and state level into the strong, member-driven union it is today” over the past three years. 

“Democratizing the workplace is something that is not only preferable, but possible,” Sechrist said in a Feb. 16 interview. “Sticking together as workers and using our collective leverage — that is simply a tool that people don't realize they have. … It’s a matter of equity in the workplace as well, and saying we want to have a say over the conditions of our labor, because we’re the ones doing it.”

Sechrist also ran for the UB Council Student Representative position in 2023, and has helped organize protests against right-wing speakers on campus.

As leader of GSEU’s Buffalo chapter, Sechrist will also represent graduate workers at SUNY schools across Western New York, including campuses as far east as Geneseo and Brockport.

Sol Hauser is the senior news editor and can be reached at sol.hauser@ubspectrum.com 

Grant Ashley is the editor in chief and can be reached at grant.ashley@ubspectrum.com  


GRANT ASHLEY
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Grant Ashley is the editor in chief of The Spectrum. He's also reported for NPR, WBFO, WIVB and The Buffalo News. He enjoys taking long bike rides, baking with his parents’ ingredients and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. He can be found on the platform formerly known as Twitter at @Grantrashley. 

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