Nomination period extended – Join the Bargaining Committee!

The deadline to nominate people for the Bargaining Committee (BC) has been extended to Tuesday, February 26 at 5pm! Email with the name and department of you or someone you know who wants to run for the BC.  Online ballot links will be emailed to all members on Wednesday, February 27.

See this updated election announcement for more details on how to nominate a potential candidate (NB—you can nominate yourself)!

Make your voice heard—join the Bargaining Committee!

Today we got one step closer to a fair contract: we announced the procedure to elect a bargaining committee. See our election announcement, or below, for more information on how to get involved and represent your fellow grad workers. We need you!



Bargaining Committee Election Announcement

The Bargaining Committee (BC) is an elected group of graduate workers that will meet regularly with administration to negotiate the best possible collective bargaining agreement. Graduate workers on the BC have the important role of representing and advocating for the diverse interests of membership at the negotiation table. Our goal is to maximize representation of identities and working conditions. The BC will:

  1. Work to win a contract that serves the interests of the whole membership;
  2. Attend and participate in all bargaining sessions with administration;
  3. Work with counsel to write contract language;
  4. Communicate regularly with the Organizing Committee (OC) and membership;
  5. Meet at least once per week throughout the bargaining process

Union members will support the BC by forming working groups dedicated to issue-based research and by organizing actions that empower the BC with a strong negotiating position. Serving on the BC is a serious commitment. Bargaining committee members should expect long and varied hours depending on the stage of bargaining. This is also a unique opportunity to build both leadership and negotiation skills. No prior organizing or other specific volunteer experience with SUGSE is needed.

Structure of the Bargaining Committee
The Bargaining Committee (BC) will consist of up to twenty-two (22) members from the bargaining unit. Unit members will run for seats by discipline. There will be a minimum of three members on the BC from each of the divisions below:

  • (3) Engineering and Physical Sciences
  • (3) Humanities and Languages
  • (3) Life Sciences (BioMed and Public Health)
  • (3) Social Sciences

In recognition of the multiplicity of graduate labor experiences, there are seats open based on types of labor and labor conditions. These seats are available based on the following criteria:

  • (1) terminal master’s graduate worker
  • (1) international graduate worker who is on an F-1, M-1, or J-1 visa
  • (1) graduate worker who is or has been a primary instructor at Brown
  • (1) graduate worker parent

Similarly, in order to advance our goal of representation, there are seats available to workers who self-identify with the following historically underrepresented and/or institutionally disempowered categories:

  • (3) graduate workers of color
  • (1) graduate worker with a disability
  • (1) LGBTQ graduate worker
  • (1) womxn graduate worker in STEM

In understanding that identity is complex and multiple, we strongly encourage the candidacy of members who self-identify with more than one of the listed identities.

Nomination Process
Graduate workers who (a) are part of the bargaining unit and (b) have signed a union membership card are eligible to be nominated for election to the Bargaining Committee. This includes SUGSE members who are currently working as a research assistant (RA), a teaching assistant (TA), or a proctor or plan to do so in the Fall 2019 semester, even if they are not currently working in one of those capacities. Self-nominations will be accepted, as will nominations from current graduate students who have signed a union membership card.

From Feb. 6 to Feb. 18, a call for nominations will be posted to our website and distributed via email. The nomination and election process will be overseen by the Election Committee (EC), which consists of the five undersigned volunteers. To make a nomination for the BC, individuals should contact the Election Committee at no later than 5pm on Monday, February 18, with the name, email address, and department of the person you wish to nominate. Any questions about process may also be directed to the EC at The EC will contact all nominees to verify whether they accept their nomination. To support a fair process, no one on the EC can be nominated.

To accept a nomination and become a candidate for the BC, individuals will be asked to provide the EC with a photo and complete a brief questionnaire identifying themselves, including their name, department, year, whether they are pursuing a master’s or PhD, the kind of work they do, and any other factors that they would like to share (up to 150 words). This information will be posted on the SUGSE website so that members can learn about candidates prior to voting. AFT staff members will not campaign for any candidates in bargaining committee elections. Candidates are encouraged, but not required, to attend the General Membership Meeting on Thursday, February 21 where they will have an opportunity to briefly address members in attendance.

Election Process
The election will be held online for seven (7) days beginning Thursday, Feb. 21, after the General Membership Meeting. A unique link to a ballot will be sent to every SUGSE member via email. Every member will cast up to three (3) votes per discipline for a total of up to twelve (12) votes. This email will reiterate the structure of the bargaining unit and will also include candidate statements. After polls close at 11:00 pm on Wednesday, Feb. 27, there will be a grace period before the results are announced on Friday, March 1. The grace period will allow people to report and resolve technical difficulties.

The twelve (12) discipline-based seats will be filled by the candidates receiving the most votes in their respective disciplines.

Coordination with Organizers
The BC is expected to meet weekly and to send a newsletter updating all members at least quarterly. At least one BC member should attend weekly organizing committee meetings in order to coordinate member actions in support of bargaining. Power at the bargaining table comes from an organized, involved union membership!

Audrey Massmann, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Babak Hemmatian, Cognitive Science

Hilary Rasch, English

Keenan Wilder, Sociology

Pablo Valente, Behavioral and Social Health Sciences

Take our Bargaining Survey!

We’re really excited to share our union’s bargaining survey with you. This is the first step toward building a better Brown that includes graduate worker voices. Here’s a link to the survey.

Last semester we won our union election, and now we get a seat at the table. As we look ahead to bargaining our first union contract, it’s important that every graduate worker has a say in our union’s priorities.

Today we submitted proposed bargaining dates with administration. We’ll be updating you on that and next steps in the process at our general membership meeting in February. So stay tuned! If you haven’t done so already and you’re ready to work together for a better workplace, sign your membership card here.

We’re having an election!

We’re having an election!

Graduate workers at Brown have officially given notice to our employer that we are moving forward with a union election. This is a huge step in our campaign to win a union, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the overwhelming support and action we’ve seen from graduate workers across the university.

Please join me and hundreds of others who have already pledged to vote yes for our union.

We’ll be in touch over the coming weeks about when and where the election will be.

Remember, this is more than just a vote. It’s our first demonstration to Brown that we are are serious about wanting a voice and a contract that recognizes us as workers. That’s why it’s so important to take action and commit to voting yes!

Let’s do this,

Jose Belmar
Department of Economics

P.S. Check out this press release from the AFT about our big step toward an election!


Our election agreement: one step closer to a vote!

SUGSE and Provost Locke have signed an agreement that allows us to hold an election without the interference of Trump’s Labor Board. This agreement comes after more than a year of work, and will empower PhD and Masters graduate workers to vote for a union and bargain collectively over our working conditions.

Reaching this election agreement independent from Trump’s Labor Board is a huge step forward toward securing a seat at the table where decisions are made about our healthcare, our stipends, our libraries, and our grievances.

We negotiated this agreement, but it wasn’t only won at the table. Through our “Let Us Vote” rally, a presence during commencement, and most importantly by building majority support for a union through face to face conversations with graduate workers like you, we demonstrated the need for a meaningful democratic process. We’re not done yet. If you’re ready to join the active organizing effort or have questions about this process, please email us and we’ll be in touch shortly!

Get ready for an election!

Union Affiliation Vote Information





Original Post:

Dear Fellow Graduate Student Employees,

As you may know, there is an on-going effort to organize a union of research assistants (RAs) and teaching assistants (TAs), to advocate for grad employee rights and protections at Brown University. We thank the Graduate Student Council for supporting the involvement of all grads in this choice and look forward to continuing to work together throughout and beyond this decision.

As part of this process, SUGSE’s Affiliation working group has been hard at work the past few months talking to graduate students at other universities and negotiating with potential union affiliates. A comprehensive, 35-page report of this process and their findings is available on our website. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to read it all. But it’s there if you want to!)

We are fundamentally committed to an inclusive, democratic, and transparent unionization process. To this end, we are holding an open affiliation vote. The vote:

  • …Will determine which national union we affiliate with as graduate students.
  • …Will be held using a secure online system from Sunday, March 19th 6:00pm to Tuesday, March 21st 6:00pm.
  • …Will be open to all current Brown Ph.D. and Masters students who register using this linked form* by Monday, March 20th 6:00pm (more details in the link). Note that in response to feedback from the community SUGSE members have collectively agreed to open the vote to non-members who register.

Right now, you might be unfamiliar with the unionization process and the significance of this vote. That’s ok! Our hope is that this will be the first of many opportunities to learn about and participate in workplace democracy.

Volunteers have prepared the following introductory materials:


We’re excited to share what we’ve learned, and hope you will join us in building a stronger grad community! Feel free to reach us by email at!

In solidarity,

Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees

SUGSE is an anti-racist, feminist, labor organization that advocates for graduate worker rights and protections at Brown.
*This is *not* a legal document or petition, and this does not commit you to a decision about unionization or a contract. Registering on this form simply indicates that you support the goal of forming an inclusive, democratic, and transparent labor union that holds feminism and anti-racism as values.

SUGSE Title IX Demands


The following letter was recently posted on Blue Stockings:

Dear Brown University Community and Alumni,

We no longer have a functioning Title IX Office, and we do not know why. Amanda Walsh, former Title IX Program Officer, and Jessica Katz, former Title IX Investigator, the two staff members that made up the entirety of the Title IX Office, have resigned. The office is now being temporarily run by the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, an office that is overburdened and has neither the expertise needed to address Title IX cases nor the lawyers to do so. Furthermore, the university has refused to adequately inform Brown community members about this change or lay out a timeline or process for addressing these empty positions. We demand:

  • A letter that announces the departure of both members of the Title IX Office immediately. This letter should include: 1) A timeline and process the University will commit to for filling these positions with permanent staff. Ad hoc employment of investigators is not sufficient. 2) A list of current resources available to students. 3) A clear protocol during this temporary and transitional period for students who need Title IX Office resources, especially pertinent legal assistance.
  • That the office be staffed by individuals who can fulfill all of the roles, in addition to the roles that Amanda and Jessica took on, needed to make the Title IX Office an accessible and efficient resource for all students. We demand at least three licensed, trained, and permanent staff to handle the large load of cases the Office has faced by the beginning of Fall 2017.
  • The hiring of a community resource representative to advocate and address the needs of those who file a Title IX complaint throughout the entirety of applicable Title IX processes outlined here by Fall 2017.

These demands represent the bare minimum of what Brown community members should expect in terms of transparency and administrative support, especially for something as vital to the equitable functioning of the University as the Title IX Office. Join us in solidarity to petition for these demands.

As President Paxson has stated, “Every instance of sexual assault at Brown is an egregious violation of our community values. I urge each and every one of you to contribute to addressing sexual violence.” Let’s hold President Paxson accountable to her own commitment to end sexual assault and sexual harassment on Brown’s campus.

In solidarity,
Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees (SUGSE)

Open Letter to the Executive Board of the Brown GSC

Dear GSC Executive Board,

We recently received the FAQs you sent out (link at bottom). The view of many SUGSE members is that, very much to your credit, they offered a vast improvement on the administration’s FAQs.

However, we want to point out that the dichotomy you pose between “pro-union” and “anti-union” can be misleading. There are good and bad unions. We can have a union that operates democratically to build genuine community and power, or we can have its opposite. Members of SUGSE are unequivocally striving to build the first kind of union and are fully aware of the dangers of the second kind.

Additionally, there are two major things we wish were included. The first is that there are a number of published studies that show that across qualitative and quantitative measures, graduate students at unionized schools are better off. An excellent recent resource is this paper by Rogers, Eaton & Voos (2013).

Second, you mention 6th year funding, health insurance, dental insurance, and graduate student seats on the diversity and inclusion oversight board as ways in which Brown addresses our concerns. However, we wish you had mentioned these were all won through collaboration among student advocacy groups, including SUGSE. For example, the positions on the Diversity and Inclusion Oversight Committee resulted from a concerted effort by six groups: the Samuel M. Nabrit Black Graduate Student Association, Graduate Students of Color Collective, Queer Students of Color Collective, Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees (SUGSE), the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), and the Concerned Graduate Students of Color (CGSC). Additionally, last year’s graduate student worker survey, which revealed numerous labor-related concerns facing our community, was one of many GSC-SUGSE collaborations.

At multiple points in recent history, graduate student workers have come together to gain real wins and work for the common good. SUGSE’s vision of a graduate student union at Brown is a continuation of this through our (for now) legal right to negotiate a formal contract. In the future, we hope you fully acknowledge the past work done by graduate students both in and outside of the channels of the GSC. We understand this can be difficult because of institutional amnesia, but it is nonetheless necessary for knowing how to effect real change in the future.

As always, thank you for all the work you do for our community. In these troubled times, we believe it is important to both work together to build strong democratic institutions, protect the vulnerable, and uplift all of us. Key to this is constructively criticizing — and listening to — one another.

In Solidarity,

Members of SUGSE

Link to GSC Executive Board FAQs

SUGSE + GSC Survey Results Are In…And Grads See Themselves as Students and Workers!

We made you this handy dandy infographic for easy reading. Highlights include:

  • The majority of graduate students understand themselves to be students AND workers!
  • Work assignments are not consistent across departments or funding source
  • International students are disproportionately impacted by inconsistent work assignments
  • 9 out of 10 graduate students have a positive relationship with faculty!
  • 3 out of 10 graduate students do not feel comfortable negotiating the terms of their work load with faculty

SUGSE is organizing all summer to gain greater control over our working conditions. Join us!


SciLi Worker Solidarity


From Brown Student Labor Alliance:

The Library Administration is moving forward with a plan to further reduce services and staffing in the Sciences Library. The plan will cut library hours from 100 to 70 and staff from 4.5 positions to 2 positions, thus leaving the SciLi understaffed.

Harriette Hemmasi, the head University Librarian, has stated, “I have always been proud of the ways in which the entire Library staff works collectively to meet the evolving demands of the community we serve, and I am excited to continue our progress toward a system that enhances the ability of users to access scholarly content and connect with Library services.”

This statement that was sent in an email to the Brown community neglects the fact that neither the library or University administration has centered the concerns of library workers or allowed for community input throughout these changes.

If you have not shared or signed this petition yet, please do so!