Grad Unions in the US

The first graduate workers in the United States to win formal union recognition were graduate-student workers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 1969. Currently, tens of thousands of graduate students at over 35 public and private universities across the United States are unionized. As of October 2018, graduate-student workers at an additional 20 universities are in the process of unionization, according to the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions (CGEU).*

Each graduate union contract is unique to the particular university and local union. Below are some examples of what grad unions have been able to fight for and win in their respective contracts. (Note that contracts do not include features of union bylaws, such as dues and structure, which are determined by democratic vote within a union.)

Examples of Contract Gains and Protections from Graduate-Student Unions in the United States

Central Features of Contracts

  • Wage increases
  • Terms of dismissal, leave, and discipline
  • Workload expectations and limits
  • Grievance and arbitration procedures
  • Health insurance benefits
  • Broad non-discrimination clauses (e.g. gender identity/expression, hereditary traits, neurodiversity)

Other Specific Examples of Gains and Protections

  • Visa Fee Remission: Oregon State University
  • Compensation for mandatory trainings: New York University (NYU)
  • Use of Gender-Inclusive Employment Forms: University of Oregon (UO)
  • Child-care funding: UC System, NYU, UMass Amherst, Michigan
  • Uniform Parking and Transit Eligibility for all University Employees: UC System, Washington
  • Medical Leave: UC System, UO, UMass Amherst
  • Parental / Family Leave: UC System, UO, NYU, Temple, UMass Amherst, University of Rhode Island (URI)
  • Bereavement Leave: UC System, Temple, Michigan, URI
  • Election Day arrangements so employees can vote: UO
  • Lactation Support: UC System, UO, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington
  • Offices: e.g. at least ½-desk assignment in locking room for all grads at UO
  • Terms of employee evaluations: UO, URI
  • Summer Wages and Healthcare: UC System, UO, Michigan

Contract Links from Selected Graduate-Worker Unions:

For a more comprehensive list of graduate-worker unions and their respective contracts, see CGEU’s website.

*Includes some corrections to information that was out-of-date information on the CGEU website as of October 2018.