Our History

Graduate Labor Organization (GLO) was originally formed as a graduate activist organization called Stand Up for Graduate Students (SUGS).

In 2014, SUGS began in response to a crisis in availability of sixth year funding for PhD student workers. The founders included Majida Kargbo (‘18 PhD, American Studies), Sara Matthisen (PhD, History), Anne Gray Fischer (‘18 PhD, History), Amy Chin (Sociology), and Sarah Brown (American Studies). SUGS’s early campaigns fought for sixth year funding, dental care, and better accountability mechanisms for sexual harassment and assault on campus. In 2016, SUGS became Stand Up For Graduate Student Employees (SUGSE) and began organizing towards forming a labor union of graduate workers. As a union, we advocate for graduate worker needs and protections through organizing, collective action, and collective bargaining; and we strive to build an interconnected and caring community that supports our feminist and anti-racist values.

2001-2004

Graduate students at Brown attempt to unionize, but Brown admin challenges them in court, freezing graduate-worker-union organizing at private universities across the country

2014

The University unexpectedly denies a majority of 6th-year funding applications; Stand Up for Graduate Students (SUGS) forms and succeeds in getting the University to reverse their decision.

2015

SUGS works with other graduate student groups to win paid dental insurance for graduate workers at Brown.

2016

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that graduate students at private universities are workers and can unionize through the Board. This decision offered legal precedence and backing for efforts to organize a union of graduate workers at Brown.

SUGS becomes SUGSE and begins to organize a union to collectively bargain for stable and fair terms of employment, as well as improvements to benefits. Some original demands are posted in the SUGSE Tumblr.

2017

Graduate workers at Brown vote to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers. This affiliation brought more resources and experienced staff organizers to our campaign.

2018

SUGSE and Brown’s administration negotiated a pre-election agreement that gives graduate student workers the opportunity to have a free and fair election that the administration must respect. The agreement allowed us to administer the election through the American Arbitration Association (AAA) rather than depending on Trump’s conservative NLRB, which seeks to take the right to unionize away from graduate student workers at private universities.

After thousands of organizing conversations across disciplines, graduate student workers vote to unionize.

Members elect our first bargaining committee and begin negotiating for our first contract.

2020

We win our first contract in the midst of a pandemic after over a year of organizing and bargaining.

We initiat our first post-contract campaigns: our COVID safety reopening campaign and our divest, disarm, defund campaign (a campaign we are supporting in coalition with other organizers organizing for black lives on campus and in Providence)

We vote to ratify our first constitution, and hold elections for our first Union leadership.