If you’ve ever been part of a group with a budget, you may have heard the term “participatory budgeting,” but what exactly is it? Participatory budgeting (PB) involves democratizing the fiscal decision-making process of institutions and organizations like unions. A union gives workers a voice in our workplace; PB empowers rank and file members to identify which needs our union should address. Any CGE member can propose initiatives that benefit our organization, and then work alongside our organizing committee to develop these proposals into substantive programs. Programs are voted upon before receiving funding, ensuring all members have a hand in how we spend our money and where we take our organization.
You might be asking yourself, “how does PB benefit me?” CGE members are united around our shared vision of making Penn State an institution where we can be proud to work. As such, we are active in many graduate organizations across campus. PB allows us to harness our membership’s social circles to address graduate employees with particular interests. For example, are you in a graduate organization where several graduate employees have families and are invested in better childcare? We want to give you the resources to host events catered to these graduate communities. Personalizing outreach and dealing with the issues small graduate communities care about improves the quality of life for all.
Likewise PB is essential for uplifting marginalized communities. International students, women, LGBTQ+ students and students of color are among the most vulnerable graduate employees, facing unique challenges in our workplaces that go unaddressed by Penn State. Are women within your department concerned with rampant cases of sexual harassment and the imminent rollback of Title IX protections? PB allows CGE members from these communities to voice their needs, tackling these issues with the full weight of our resources and membership behind them. We are fighting for a better workplace for all graduate employees. An injury to one is an injury to all.
A union relies first and foremost on a sense of solidarity between workers. As we implement PB, we strengthen the bonds between our communities of graduate employees. However, the success of PB depends on your involvement. We encourage you reflect on the graduate communities you are a part of, and on the concerns they voice that have gone unheard. Envision how we can address these concerns and uplift these communities. All ideas are welcome and we are eager to help you develop them into meaningful initiatives. Just because the university is inhibiting our unionization efforts doesn’t mean we stop trying to improve the lives of graduate employees.
In Solidarity, The Coalition of Graduate Employees