What can unions win?

Grievance procedures

  • Princeton: Grievance procedures are entirely internal to the university. The final stage of appeal is a dean. No access to neutral, third-party arbitration.
  • Harvard, NYU, Columbia, University of Michigan: The union can bring grievances to a neutral, third-party arbitrator, who is agreed upon and paid for jointly by the union and the university. The arbitrator would then issue a final and binding award. Timeline for the maximum length of every step of the process is clearly specified in the contract.
  • Harvard, Columbia: Availability of neutral, third-party arbitration extends to cases of harassment and discrimination.
  • University of Michigan (Article VIII): Students are on committees that review and make recommendations in the case of student termination due to unsatisfactory academic performance.

Improved international student support

  • NYU, Harvard: Fund to support legal expenses for international students. For NYU, this fund also supports tax-related expenses.
  • University of California, Columbia, Harvard: Paid leave for immigration hearings. 
  • Columbia, Harvard: Students that cannot return to the US because of their immigration status can continue to work from outside the US.
  • University of Michigan: University reimburses SEVIS fees. Creation of a hotline serving those with immigration problems.

Better healthcare

  • Princeton: Dental and vision coverage are not free. Financial assistance for healthcare costs are either loans or funds that focus on cases of “financial hardship” and have no clear eligibility criteria or size of fund.
  • Harvard, NYU: Fund for out-of-pocket healthcare costs, including specialist and mental health visits. At Harvard, a separate fund covers dental reimbursements, which are even available for students who didn’t elect for the dental plan.
  • University of Michigan: Healthcare and dental coverage with no premiums. Coverage extends to partners and dependents.
  • NYU: Free dental coverage.

Better childcare

  • Princeton: Childcare subsidy up to $6,500/year per child under 6.
  • Harvard: Childcare subsidy up to $7,000/semester per child under 4. Up to $1,750/semester per child between 5 and 12.
  • Columbia: Childcare subsidy increases annually by $500.

Clear & safe work standards

  • University of Washington: Clear recourse against overwork and mechanism for addressing class-size. 
  • Harvard: Protections for students reporting unsafe working environment. Ability to request workplace safety evaluations. Definition of average workload.

Guaranteed affordable housing

  • University of Illinois-Chicago: Guaranteed summer housing for international students. 
  • University of California: 46% salary increases to assuage housing costs. 
  • MIT: Currently bargaining over housing subsidies tied to federal rent burden definition.

Guaranteed pay raises & contingency funds

  • Princeton: No guaranteed annual raise.
  • Columbia: 6% retroactive raises. Minimum 3% increases for the remaining years of the contract. Guaranteed advisor-independent transitional funding for up to one full semester. 
  • Brown: Increased stipend of $42,411.03 per year, a nearly 13% hike.

For a more in-depth look at the benefits we can gain from unionization, the MIT Graduate Student Union has an extensive list of union wins.

Example graduate union contracts

Below, we link to a few contracts and summaries that come from other graduate student unions.

If you’re interested in seeing an example of the bargaining process, MIT GSU is actively negotiating a contract and has made their negotiations publicly available.