Grad students urge STEM workers to boycott US military

The graduate student employee union at the University of Illinois is urging STEM workers to "refuse employment" in military and defense industries in order to undermine the "military-industrial complex."

The union issued a press release Friday endorsing the "STEM Strikes the War Machine" campaign, which also demands that 90% of all military spending be reallocated to "social justice" efforts around the world.

A graduate student union is demanding that STEM workers “refuse employment” in the military, and that 90 percent of all military spending be reallocated to “social justice” efforts.

The Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign formally endorsed the STEM Strikes the War Machine campaign in a press release Friday, encouraging supporters to “take the pledge to refuse employment from all militaries and defense companies.”

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“STEM Strikes the War Machine calls upon all STEM workers to refuse employment from all militaries and defense companies, and demand that 90% of money spent on research, design, and procurement of militaries worldwide be directed towards democratically organized and social justice oriented STEM communities,” the statement begins.

Fretting that “we are facing an unprecedented ecological crisis” because politicians “continue to invest unjustifiable amount [sic] of resources into erecting borders, expanding surveillance, and engaging [in] covert as well as overt wars,” the group declares that “the STEM community is an integral part of the war making and profit generating military-industrial complex.”

Reiterating its call for “all STEM folks” to refuse employment in defense-related industries, the GEO asserts that “as neo-fascism spreads through the cracks of liberal politics, we need engineers, scientists, researchers, and educators who fight for the welfare of human and non-human species.”

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The website behind the pledge to boycott military and defense organizations provides additional detail, contending for instance that “without the cooperation of the STEM community, drones, nuclear bombs, and fighter jets would not be possible.”

“In addition to civilian scientists who work for defense companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, at least two hundred thousand active duty U.S. military personnel perform science, engineering, and technical roles,” the website claims, adding that “America allocated $184 billion of its $583 billion military budget for research, design, and procurement of weapons and equipment.”

In place of those expenditures, STEM Strikes the War Machine argues that scientists and governments should direct their efforts toward combating climate change, which the group concedes “will require cooperation between nations and an extraordinary expenditure of resources.”

“This reallocation can take many forms, from transferring money to existing institutions, like the National Science Foundation in America, to creating new organizations that allocate the money democratically across nations,” the website explains. “As it stands, the demands of war dictate what we research and engineer. It is time we decide for ourselves the best use of our minds.”

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The main goal of STEM Strikes the War Machine is demonstrated in the conclusion of the pledge, which states that “in order to weaken the military-industrial complex and build leverage for our demand, we pledge not to work for any military or defense company.”

According to its press release, the GEO is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, and “represents approximately 2,700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants” at the UIUC campus.

Campus Reform reached out to the GEO for comment, but has not received a response.

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