What have graduate student workers achieved at other universities?
Graduate student workers are forming unions across the country:
Grad student workers have created unions at:
Grad student workers have created unions at:
Universities where grad student workers are creating unions:
When grads work together, they've won major improvements such as:
The graduate student workers at the University of Massachusetts−Amherst have bargained minimum stipend increases in their current contract of 3.5% each academic year. These increases are paid to all graduate student workers regardless of funding source.
At Temple, grad student workers cannot be forced to work more than 20 hrs. each week−with fractional appointments given a proportional maximum work load. There’s a procedure for review if a worker feels their workload is too high and is inconsistent with work guidelines. If the review finds the grad student employee is working more than required, the administration will pay for the extra work done on a pro rata basis. They may also reduce the workload, add assistance, or, with the consent of the grad student employee, increase the workload set forth in their appointment letter to include the additional hours of work and increase the TA/RAs wages commensurately.
At the University of Florida, Graduate Assistants United has a contract provision that provides freedom for TAs to “give their own interpretations of instructional materials used by them─whether self-chosen or prescribed,” and encourages RAs to “exercise creativity” in their research work.
At the University of Iowa, the grad student employees bargained contract language that committed departments to honoring initial offers of employment length, gave employees the right to protest below standard evaluations, and required departments to provide employees written descriptions of their duties and associated time expectations.
At the University of Washington in Seattle, the grad union won protection from discrimination based on “age, sex (except where age or sex is a bona fide occupational qualification), race or ethnic origin, color, creed, national origin, religion, disability, disabled or Vietnam era veteran status, political affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, pregnancy status, HIV status, or membership or non-membership in a union.” Violations can be settled through both the University Complaint office as well as through the union grievance procedure process. At the University of Michigan, the grad union won a contract that requires jobs to be posted in a fair and open way, and forced the university to create a committee that acts as a watchdog for affirmative action and anti-discrimination. The committee publishes an annual report on the status of affirmative action on campus.
grievance procedure / job protection
At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, there is a three-step grievance procedure. The first step is to seek to solve the issue at the department level. If the issue is not settled to the grad employee’s satisfaction, the steward can then take it to the dean of the college. If the grievance remains unsettled, it can then go to the chancellor. If the issue remains unresolved after exhausting this process, a neutral arbitrator will be agreed upon by both sides to make a final and binding decision to solve the issue. This sort of language is common in many contracts.
At the University of Wisconsin at Madison, grads negotiated a three-tier health care system. At most, grad students with no dependents pay between $15.50 and $82/mo. Family healthcare plans range from $39 to $206/mo. The grad union at the University of Michigan negotiated to allow grads to choose between 8 different plans, most of which are fully paid for by the administration, including family coverage.
Grad unions have made a lot of advances for leave language. At the University of Iowa, grad workers have paid vacation, sick leave, family illness leave, bereavement leave, and jury duty leave.
While outside employment to supplement wages is prohibited at the University of Pittsburgh, the grad union at the University of Massachusetts−Amherst won the right to hold a second job in their contract (as long as the second job does not interfere with their duties as a grad worker).
tuition / fee waivers
At the University of Wisconsin−Madison, the grad union won full tuition remission (or waiver). And, the University of Connecticut grad union bargained contract language that provides nearly $900 in fee waivers in addition to their tuition waiver.
At the University of Washington, grads are eligible for $900 per quarter for qualifying childcare expenses. Grads also have access to lactation stations on campus. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the graduate student employees bargained with the administration to create a “Family Issues Committee.” It consists of two administration reps and two union reps to determine child care policies. The university also provides a $30,000 fund to pay for employee child care needs.
The University of Oregon negotiated for paid training on equipment that poses a safety hazard for grad employees, and New York University negotiated for a workplace safety committee that includes grads to oversee safety issues.