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Back in October, TRNN spoke to graduate student-workers at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University about the growing grassroots effort to unionize grad students under the banner of Teachers and Researchers United. Since then, the union drive has continued to build momentum: After a supermajority of grad student-workers signed union cards in October and November, an official date for the union election has now been set. Eligible bargaining unit members will cast their votes on whether or not to unionize and affiliate with the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers (UE) on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31. This election comes amid a wave of labor actions that are spreading throughout the world of higher education in the US, with recent and current strikes taking place at the University of CaliforniaThe New School in New York, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and with other graduate student-worker unionization efforts happening at Northwestern University in Evanston, Northeastern University in Boston, and beyond. To get an up-to-date look at the unionization drive at Johns Hopkins, and to discuss where this rank-and-file movement came from and how it’s grown since our last report in October, Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez sits down with Jasmine Grey and Martin Yepes of Teachers and Researchers United in the TRNN studio in Baltimore.

Studio: Adam Coley, Cameron Granadino, Darian Jones
Post-Production: Cameron Granadino


Maximillian Alvarez:  Welcome, everyone, to The Real News Network. My name is Maximillian Alvarez. I’m the editor-in-chief here at The Real News, and it’s so great to have you all with us. The Real News is an independent, viewer supported, nonprofit media network, which means we don’t do ads, we don’t do paywalls, and we don’t take corporate cash. So we need each one of you to become a supporter of our work so we can keep bringing you coverage of the voices and issues you care about most. So please head on over to Become a monthly sustainer of our work. It really makes a difference.

Back in October for a Battleground Baltimore edition of The Real News Network podcast, I got to speak with Andrew and Caleb, two graduate student workers at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University here in Baltimore, who have been deeply involved with the effort by graduate students to unionize under the banner of Teachers and Researchers United.

The current union drive was still in its early stages when we recorded that interview, but things have certainly picked up steam since then. In fact, a super majority of grad student workers signed union cards in October and November, and now an official date for a union election has been set. Eligible bargaining unit members will cast their votes on whether or not to unionize and affiliate with the United Electrical radio and machine workers, or UE, on Monday, Jan. 30 and Tuesday, Jan. 31 of this year.

This election comes amid a wave of labor actions that have been spreading throughout the world of higher education here in the United States, with recent and current strikes taking place at the University of California, at The New School in New York, at the University of Illinois at Chicago. And with other graduate student worker unionization efforts happening at universities like Northwestern in Evanston, Northeastern University in Boston, and beyond.

To get an up-to-date look at the unionization drive at Johns Hopkins and to discuss where this rank and file movement came from and how it’s grown since our last report in October, I was honored to sit down with Jasmine and Martin from Teachers and Researchers United in The Real News Studio here in Baltimore. Here’s our interview, recorded just under two weeks before the pivotal union election is set to take place at the end of this month.

Jasmine Grey:  Hi. I’m Jasmine Grey. I’m a third year PhD graduate student at Hopkins in the Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology program. A mouthful. I have been working with the unionization efforts for graduate students at Hopkins for about two years now, and it’s been getting pretty real lately. So I’m excited.

Martin Yepes:  I’m Martin Yepes, and I am in the program for Molecular Biophysics, third year. I’ve been involved with TRU since July of last year. And it’s a mouthful too, but the bottom line is I’m a worker.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Hell yeah. Well, Jasmine, Martin, thank you both so much for coming down to The Real News Studio and chatting to us about this. As our viewers and listeners and readers know, you all have been in a really exciting unionization effort at Johns Hopkins, the mainstay of Baltimore, and a fixture of the city where academic workers like yourselves make the university run. And the last time that we checked in with the campaign to unionize graduate workers at Hopkins with the United Electrical workers under the banner of Teachers and Researchers United was when I got to chat with Caleb and Andrew for The Real News podcast back in October, and it felt like things were really starting to pick up steam at that point. But as you said, Jasmine, a lot has happened since then, and a lot is heating up now as you all have finally secured an election date.

The election is going to be taking place at the end of this month, Jan. 30 and 31. Folks will be voting in person, and then we’re going to find out whether or not Hopkins workers are now officially unionized. So it’s a really exciting time, and this is all taking place amidst a lot of activity going on in higher education in the labor movement writ large. So we’re going to dig into all of that. But I wanted to start where we left off in October when Caleb, Andrew, and I got to talk a bit about the campaign up until that point. So I was wondering if you all could say, for Real News viewers and listeners, what’s happened since October to now, as we approach the election date? Give us a play by play of what it’s been like on the ground over there at Hopkins.

Jasmine Grey:  Awesome. So basically, towards the end of October, we had our card drop rally over at the Homewood Campus, where we had around 400 graduate students come out, and we gave pretty inspiring speeches on all of the pillars that we are focusing on for our campaign. We dropped cards and we hit super majority extremely fast. It was really shocking how many signatures we got so quickly. It was less than a month we got the super majority. So we’re really proud of that part of the campaign.

Maximillian Alvarez:  And just to refresh, folks who are watching and listening to this, the threshold to trigger an NLRB election is 30%. So you all were maybe hoping to get past that, but then you ended up with a super majority. Yeah, that’s wild.

Jasmine Grey:  So yeah, 60-plus% grad students said we want union. So we’re pretty proud of that achievement. And then after that we got our election, or we said that we were able to have an election, and then we started basically mobilizing another campaign for students to commit to voting yes when the time comes. And that was to get the word out that we have an actual election now, and we need people to know about this election so that people can show up and vote when the time comes. So that’s a brief overview of where we’re at now.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Martin, I was wondering if you could say a little more about just the vibe that you’ve gotten from within your department, the other folks that you’re talking to, and any insights into how the university’s responded, the campus community has responded in that time?

Martin Yepes:  Sure. If I’m talking about vibes, I’m talking about walkthroughs, which is our go-to way of reaching out to people that haven’t heard about the union yet, or people who do support but haven’t yet committed to doing something a little deeper. And, like Jasmine, I was also really surprised at how good the numbers were, even though I was going from lab to lab, building to building, introducing myself, talking about things, because I was expecting to meet people who were anti-union, against the concept. In principle, they don’t like it. I’ve talked to a lot of people, I’ve walked through a lot of buildings, I’ve met almost nobody like that. The enemy’s apathy. People think that, even if we did get it, it wouldn’t change anything. Or, I believe in all those things, but I don’t know if I want to take time from my research to do it. The vibe that I’ve been seeing is that there’s less of that now, and we feel pretty strong going into this election.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Which is, in and of itself, that’s a pretty significant shift from what even I remember organizing on campus back when I was a graduate student at the University of Michigan, shout out to GEO. And the organizers at GEO did an incredible job. I was a dues paying member, but there were campaigns that we were involved in, solidarity campaigns with the lecturers and all that good stuff. And I just remember so distinctly that it really did matter what departments people were in. And not to paint with too broad a brush, but in general, the humanities and social sciences were more gung-ho about joining a union. It took a little more convincing from people in the hard sciences.

And I think what’s been really interesting to see, not just at Hopkins but especially there, is this does feel like something that is spreading across the different departments. And I’m not going to say that those divisions aren’t there. I imagine they still are. People have different kinds of relationships with their advisors depending on what department they’re in. If you’re in a lab under a specific professor, it can feel like a much more intimate and high stakes relationship to navigate than, say, a humanities advisor you check in with every couple months. Am I reading that right, that there’s less of that interdepartmental division and factionalism that you’re seeing in this campaign?

Jasmine Grey:  I guess for us, when we look broadly across all of the different schools from the humanities to the sciences, that is not happening. People are on the same page of we need a union, which is how I think we got to the super majority card signers so fast, because across the board, everybody’s sick of this shit, basically. We deserve better than what Hopkins is providing us, across the board.

And perhaps what the differences lie is the different pillars that we stand for. Certain groups might think we definitely need a higher stipend. While others think, well, I need transportation to be better. So since the brush itself of what we are fighting for is so broad, that is why it resonates with so many students here. But when you zoom in, I feel like a little bit closer is when you start seeing those patterns of certain areas potentially having some difference in opinion on the unionization and difference in willingness to be a part of the efforts. But overall, I feel like a lot of us are on the same page.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Hell yeah. Sorry. Please go ahead.

Martin Yepes:  Yeah. I would say that there’s always slight differences in numbers. There’s departments that are harder to get into, lower number of organizers, what have you. And there’s this, I guess, cultural notion. It’s like, well, my research is more translatable to medicine or something, so I should get paid more than the person who… If you ride the same bus as me, if you’re trying to figure out how to make rent and buy groceries and you don’t get overtime when you work a 60-hour a week, all the important things, we’ve got those in common. So what it says on the degree doesn’t matter.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Yeah. Well, let’s drill down on that, because I talked at length with Caleb and Andrew about this back in October, and that podcast that we did was before the card drive that you mentioned. So it was very exciting to publish that interview. And then, I think the next week, see how many cards you all got signed. I was like, shit, this campaign’s got juice.

But I wanted to just remind everyone watching and listening where this campaign came from. What are those key issues that you all have been mobilizing around that have been able to cut through the very thick ideology that academia puts on people? Because it can still be hard to convince folks in academia that they are workers or that they deserve a union as much as anybody else.

So what were the key issues that graduate workers at Hopkins were facing that led so many of you all to feel like a union was the collective path to addressing these issues from, I guess, relationships with managers or department heads or cost of living or transportation? Talk to us more about what those sorts of key issues were that galvanized so many of you all to be part of this effort.

Jasmine Grey:  I think a major, they’re all extremely important, but the one that I feel resonated with the majority of graduate students was a livable wage or a wage that is consistent with the cost of living, which it is not even close. And the variation across the entire school of that, what the stipend is, even though we’re all out here working 40-plus hours a week – Usually the plus is there – But some people are getting paid significantly less. You could be, honestly, in the exact same space, but if they’re from a different program, they’re getting paid differently than you, even if you’re doing the same work. And I think that discrepancy in that pillar is why it resonates with so many students at the school.

Another main pillar is fair or on time payments, which you wouldn’t think that’d be a problem. I expect my paycheck to arrive on time. But that hasn’t been the case for hundreds of students. And even more shockingly, students have not gotten paid on time several times in a row. So they’re missing their paycheck for a month. And the Hopkins basically says, sorry about that. Won’t happen again. Okay.

Maximillian Alvarez:  You’re triggering me right now, because I remember when this happened to me as a grad student at the University of Michigan, and they were just like, yeah. It’ll get there eventually. I was like, what do you want me to tell my landlord?

Jasmine Grey:  Exactly. I just can’t with that, but I’ll let Martin –

Maximillian Alvarez:  An administrator told me, go get more credit cards.

Martin Yepes:  No way.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Yeah. That was their response to me when I was like, look, I don’t have rich parents who can be helping me right now. I came to grad school from working in a restaurant in Chicago. I spent all the money I saved on my deposit for the apartment and the U-Haul. I don’t have any extra money now. I need my check on time. And their response was, well, take out more loans or get credit cards. And that’s how disdain they show for… Again, I don’t care if you’re watching this and you’re thinking, well, grad students don’t have as hard of a job as tree cutters in Maine.

Whatever the fuck you think about that, pardon my French, that doesn’t mean you deserve to not get paid on time. To not be able to keep a roof over your head or buy groceries or have any semblance of a life outside of work, which you’re not allowed to have because you’re driving for Uber or you’re doing anything you can to just make the bills. And yeah, you really do see people’s true colors when they talk about stuff like this. They try to qualify your humanity based on the job that you have. And like you said, it’s like, look, doesn’t matter what we’re doing. We all should have a roof over our heads. We should have access to buses, and we should be able to buy groceries.

Martin Yepes:  So to continue what Jasmine was saying about the late pay issue, what really galvanizes people about it is that it’s insult to injury, because you’re already not getting paid a living wage. And if you look into why it happens, it’s not because the person getting paid late did anything wrong. It happens for reasons like you got a fellowship, the source of your funding changes. Someone in an administrative office somewhere drops a ball. But then how do you handle that? Do you say, we’re sorry about that. We’ll make it right. More often than not, you get a scary email from someone saying, you are no longer in compliance with whatever this is, and you have to get us this form or there’s going to be no record of your employment. Or, it happens because there’s delays in processing paperwork if you’re an international student. Again, insult to injury. It’s hard enough if you’re not making a living wage, you don’t have any savings, paycheck doesn’t come. What if not only do you not have any savings, you don’t have a base of support in this country yet?

That’s another thing that’s part of the platform. Better support for international students, ways of making sure that the fees that they incur for visas and stuff like that, it’s something that the university could cover. My program, PMB, has a sister program, Jenkins, which is entirely international students, and that’s where the contrast is more visible than anywhere else, in my opinion. Because you have this group of people that are motivated for the same reasons you are, take all the same classes you do, do all the same work at the same level that you do, except the responsibilities aren’t the same. PMB students, if they want to as a way of adding to their CV, can TA. Jenkins students have to. It’s expected of them.

And it’s nothing to do with the value of the work, because we do the same work. It has everything to do with the fact that international students are not in a position to bargain as much as domestic students. And that’s what needs to change. As for the wood cutters, maybe my job isn’t as hard as their job. But if they’re unionized, I want to know how they deal with getting paid late or on time. Because it’s all about, well, what can one experience do to help or learn from the other. One has nothing to do with better, worse, or harder, easier. So that’s the thing. If we have a position of privilege, we want to use it to open the door for everyone else.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Hell yeah. So Martin Luther King said, all labor has dignity and every worker has rights, and exercising those rights is something that we should all support. I don’t give a shit what they do. It’s really incredible to hear all of this, especially given where we are now in the state of the labor movement, both here in the US and beyond. Because as we’ve covered a lot here at The Real News Network, a lot of workers in different types of workplaces and different industries, including those that have been traditionally very hard to unionize like fast food or the service industry in general, we’re seeing a lot of really exciting action taking place from Starbucks Workers United, the Amazon Labor Union. But also movements within existing unions like the UAW holding a referendum that would allow the membership to directly elect their international leadership. That was also a really pivotal move that happened last year.

We’re seeing workers strike and organize, but we’re also seeing shit really pop off in higher ed specifically. And we’ve also been trying to cover this as much as we can at The Real News, but we just had the University of California strike, 48,000 academic workers at the time hitting the picket line, non-tenure track faculty at The New School. Like what you all are doing at Hopkins, we’re seeing grad student unions and unionization efforts at places like Northwestern, Northeastern. And then we’ve got the lecturers across the United Kingdom going on strike. So it feels like something’s really happening here in higher education.

And I wanted to ask you guys if that’s your sense too, and if there are exchanges that you’re involved in on the ground, conversations you’re getting into, or vibes that you’re sensing, is there something different about this moment that you’re seeing through this organizing? Or, for folks watching and listening, what would you say from the conversations you’re getting and what you’re seeing on campus, why folks in higher ed are going to the mat about this stuff?

Jasmine Grey:  Yeah. In my opinion, I think, or in the experiences I’ve been through to date, recent times have been so crazy, as we have seen in social media and the news. I feel like inflation is up extremely high, especially this year and last year, and paychecks haven’t really budged much more than their marginal 2-3% increase that is not consistent with the inflation. So people are unable to pay their bills across the entire country. I can’t really speak for the UK.

Maximillian Alvarez:  No, cost of living crisis there too. We’re all getting fucked, except the rich. Sorry.

Jasmine Grey:  It’s so true. Everywhere. We do not have enough money to live a… What’s the word? I can’t think of the word. We don’t have the money to live the way that we all deserve as human beings. Our fundamental, I feel like, right to living on this earth is being able to house yourself, eat food every day, have reliable transportation, which is another one of our pillars that I did mention earlier. Having access to reliable transportation. All of these things due to this shift in climate of the world are just not, the standard is not moving with what the people need. And people are angry, justifiably, about that across the whole world.

I had just thought of this as you asked. I feel like it has to do with, as well, academia is becoming increasingly, very slowly, but more diverse, and people are not content anymore with the current or what had been done in the old days, because the old day practices were for the majority, how the majority was, and they were comfortable with that. People who have a lot of privilege were typically the individuals entering academia, who had parents to pay for when their stipend wasn’t covering their meals. You could just ask your parents for a little extra money. Your car breaks down, you could ask your parents for some money.

But we have an increase of URMs entering now. Not everybody has something to fall back on and that money to get from somebody else. And to be in academia these days, if you don’t have that extra pillow, it’s really difficult when you fall on hard times, an emergency happens. As I said, your car breaks down, which happened to me. Expenses just come out of nowhere sometimes, and the stipend doesn’t cover that anymore. Maybe it used to, but not today.

Martin Yepes:  And we don’t just want to survive, we want to thrive. I mean, we’re doing very specialized work, stuff that it takes years to learn how to do well, work that the university runs on. It would be nice to go to a place with a name like Hopkins and get more out of that than pizza and promises [all laugh]. But so far that’s the way it’s been. So we don’t look to the administration, we look to each other. We try to figure that out.

As for the larger labor movement, I take pictures of bacteria. I’m not a labor historian. The way that I’ve felt that it’s different is, again, on walkthroughs, on one-to-one conversations with people, I find that there’s something very powerful about talking to a person. And I don’t have to say to them, look, okay, here’s what a union is. Here’s what the bargaining does. Here’s like a contract could do, and then all the way down the line. I could just say, MIT is getting a raise. You don’t think you deserve one? And then school spirit kicks in. Then people can point to something that they can understand and relate to, and then all of a sudden it’s not scary or anything, then they can see themselves as part of a union.

And I think that academia has a lot of things wrong with it. One of the things that’s good about it is that we’re all very used to using each other’s ideas. That’s kind of the point. So the way it manifests for us is that we’ve seen a winning strategy play out at other places that are not that different from the place that we work, where people not that different from us are doing things that, a year ago, I thought could not happen. So it’s there, but I can’t speak to the general trend.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Sure. And even there, it’s like I’m hearing so many echoes in what you all are describing, echoes of other folks that we’ve talked to over the past year. Myself and my colleague, the great Mel Buer, who is now an associate editor here. We both talked to folks at Indiana University, the grad workers who were on strike last year. And one of the things that they were on strike over is the fees that you mentioned. They’re like, it’s the university giving us a stipend and then charging 60% of that stipend back in fees. So it’s like they’re just giving us the money so we hand it right back. How does that make any sense? And then you got to factor in rising rent costs and stuff like that.

So yeah, I think it’s important for folks to see how, even if this isn’t a unified movement, a lot of this energy is coming from similar sources. And it is exciting to see more folks in localized struggles learn from what’s working in other parts of the country or even other parts of the world. That in itself, I think is a really exciting development.

I’m speaking for myself, not for either of you, not for the folks at Hopkins, but one thing that’s been on my mind, particularly as a former PhD student in the humanities, is that one of the biggest sticks that they had to beat us into subservience was the promise of an academic job. The belief that at the carrot at the end of that stick, if you just kept your head down, if you didn’t rock the boat, if you didn’t publish it in public, that was going to get you in trouble. If you just stayed the course, and eventually were rewarded with a tenure track job and you got to the point where you were protected by tenure, then you can try to change the system. That’s what they would always tell us.

And I think that so many of us dreamed that dream so hard and wanted it so bad that we did curtail our political activities. We didn’t rock the boat when we might have otherwise done so because that thought of fucking up my future and everything that I’ve worked for kept us in check. And it’s been so heartbreaking for me, first to get spat out of academia striking out on the job market so many other people have before COVID. And then just watching it crater over the past few years and seeing so many people who had put so much time and effort into their craft, to their degrees, all job prospects within academia just disappeared. And I don’t want to minimize that, so that’s why I spend so much time talking about it.

But I do remember there was something liberating for me when I didn’t have that hanging over my head, and I was like, well, fuck it. I can organize. I’m on campus. I can publish what I want. If I don’t have to think about becoming a tenure track professor at some Ivy League college, suddenly it seems like there are more opportunities for me to do what I actually want. I guess that’s a long roundabout way of asking, has that played a role in it, the shifts in higher education since COVID hit? How has that factored into folks, like the energy that you’re seeing on campus?

Jasmine Grey:  I feel like with COVID, a lot of us, including myself, realized the value of our own lives. It’s so crazy to think about. Before I was just, I’m working. I’m on my track to becoming whatever it is I’m going to become. But I think COVID made us slow down and realize that, actually, my life matters right now. People are dying of COVID. I could get COVID and die in the next week. I feel like that thought came across a lot of people’s heads. And then we worked from home. We got to be with our families more often, and we actually realized, oh, I don’t just care about work anymore. I also care about all these other things. And I feel like that’s a lot where the mental shift has come from, especially in our generation of academia, is that we realize that there’s more to life than working.

And I think that is a hard pill to swallow for some of the higher ups in academia, that to us, there’s more to life, at least, even though I love my research, but I also love other things like drawing and going outside and seeing the sun. So that’s my take on what COVID did to the mindset and why seemingly not everybody’s on board with the straight through academia track as much as they used to be. And there’s also so many more options now.

But yeah, my point is that our life now matters, and that’s why we are fighting so hard. Because who knows where I’ll be in 10 years? Will I be a professor? Will I be making this phantom amount of money that I keep being promised, and why I should just suck it up right now? That argument, I can’t stand it because I feel like, yeah, now I matter, so I should be getting paid as if I matter to this university.

Maximillian Alvarez:  That’s beautifully put. And I know I got to wrap this up and let you guys go, but I feel like maybe Caleb and Andrew and I spoke about this in that podcast for The Real News back in October. But this is another echo that I’m hearing not just in higher ed, but it’s in manufacturing, logistics, service industry. COVID also showed us why it’s so important for bosses to not have unilateral power to make consequential decisions without any input from the rank and file. So when you have back in class orders coming from an administration that’s just prioritizing, I don’t know, tuition dollars, or making calculations that benefit the university even if they put students and instructors and TAs in harm’s way. I’ve heard a lot of folks say, when those decisions were made and we weren’t being heard, it became more apparent than ever that we need a union or we need more structures to make our demands heard and to make the university respond to those same folk.

I mean, Chris Smalls led a walk out at Amazon over COVID safety policies. This is definitely, I think, on top of what you said so beautifully, Jasmine, of confronting our own mortality and thinking about what we can do in the present. I think that COVID really has played a fundamental role in so much of the labor energy and mobilization that we’re seeing. And like I said, we are in the midst of a very exciting moment for you guys. You have an election date now. Obviously, private universities try to look for as many ways as they possibly can to convince grad workers that they don’t deserve a union, that in fact, they legally don’t have a right to a union, yada yada. So we won’t get bogged down in that. But I just want to say for folks watching and listening, elections happening Jan. 30 and 31, what do folks need to know on campus and off, and what can folks watching and listening to this do to show support for you all and Teachers and Researchers United?

Martin Yepes:  As for the election, it is the 30 and 31, if I’m not wrong. There are two four hour blocks on each day. First from 9:00 to 1:00, and then… What was it again?

Jasmine Grey:  4:00 to 8:00.

Martin Yepes:  4:00 to 8:00. Voting is going to be in-person only, and there is going to be a voting location on each campus. And as of the latest information, that is the school that you get your degree from. Reason that matters is because there are some programs where students are on different campuses. So it’s important to know where someone’s expected to vote. As for what other people can do to support, I’m having trouble with that one. I’ve been so focused on the bargaining unit and the…

Maximillian Alvarez:  Well, I guess another way to ask that is have you gotten much support from the rest of the campus community? Are faculty signing statements, or undergrads, anything that folks can be looking out for to even just vocalize support for the effort?

Jasmine Grey:  Well, we have a Twitter page. You can retweet our lovely tweets from one of my friends, we’re all friends here, but yeah, one of my friends in my lab helps run the Twitter page. To retweet, I think, a major help would be talking to your friends about the union and unionization and what that means and why you plan on voting yes. We have a majority of graduate students that are planning on voting yes when the election comes.

So if the fear is that, it’s just me. I’m afraid of what my peers would think. Your peers are going to think you’re awesome. Majority of us, from the card drop we see especially, less than a month, super majority. People want this union. So if you’re on the fence, talk to somebody. Go to our website. If you search TRU JHU, it’ll come up. We have so many answers to questions that you might have. Or reach out to any of us. We’re all so willing, me, Martin, Andrew, Caleb, literally everybody who’s super involved in TRU. We’re excited to answer any question because we really believe in this.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Hell yeah. Well, Jasmine, Martin, thank you both so much for sitting down with me here at The Real News. I really, really appreciate it. Give them hell on Jan. 30 and 31.

Jasmine Grey:  We will.

Martin Yepes:  We will.

Jasmine Grey:  Why will we? Because when we fight, we win.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Hell yeah.

Martin Yepes:  And Baltimore’s a union town.

Jasmine Grey:  Baltimore’s a union town.

Maximillian Alvarez:  Couldn’t have said it better myself, baby. So for everyone watching, this is Maximillian Alvarez. Before you go, please head on over to Become a monthly sustainer of our work so we can keep bringing you important coverage and conversations just like this. Thank you so much for watching.

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Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.
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