PGSU sent the following email out to Princeton graduate students on March 6, 2023.
Dear fellow Princeton graduate worker,
More than 1,700 grads—more than a majority!—have demonstrated support for a graduate worker union. Join us by signing your card today!
Through a union, we gain the right to collectively bargain as equals about our working and living conditions. Countless organizing efforts at other campuses including Harvard, Brown, NYU, Columbia, and MIT have shown: United, we can secure improvements and legally protected guarantees on manifold issues including fair compensation, comprehensive benefits, affordable housing, support for international students, and a grievance procedure which addresses systemic power imbalances and offers support and unbiased resolution to graduate students.
A grievance procedure enshrined in a union contract looks very different from the processes we currently have access to at Princeton. Currently, University-level confidential and non-confidential resources alike, such as the Ombuds Office, the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity, Academic Affairs, or Deans, are composed of University staff. But a grievance process that is provided entirely through and within the University is not neutral: It is designed to protect the interests of the institution over that of graduate workers.
The current process leaves individual graduate students without any guaranteed support or contractually protected rights—and without recourse to a neutral third party, should a matter not be solved within this limited framework.
Graduate students at other institutions such as Harvard, Columbia, UConn, UMich, Brown and others have had major wins in ensuring a safe, neutral, and just grievance process for graduate students. These wins have included
- The right to neutral, third-party arbitration, including for cases of discrimination and harassment, jointly paid for by the union and the university (e.g., at Columbia and Harvard),
- The right to have a union rep present during any stage of the grievance process (in all of the contracts listed here),
- The right to retract a grievance at any stage without prejudice or retaliation (e.g., at Brown),
- Graduate representation on department, termination, and academic misconduct committees (e.g., at Michigan),
- Elimination of any requirement to attempt informal resolution with a supervisor who is the cause of the grievance (e.g., at University of Connecticut), and
- Clear remedies that aim to preserve academic professional development of the aggrieved (e.g., at University of Connecticut).
Through a union, we no longer face the institution solely as individuals, but are able to address our concerns and grievances as a group of graduate workers. This protects our academic relationship with advisors while providing us with the means to assert fairness in treatment.
As Alex Diaz-Hui put it in the Daily Princetonian: “Unions, whether they’re for graduate students, service workers, or other working people, are fundamentally about coming together to address systemic concerns in the workplace and […] work together for a brighter future.”
Join us here!
PGSU-UE Organizing Committee