Working Conditions

I. What our unionized peers have
a. Guaranteed wage increases
b. Clear work expectations
c. Accountability regarding work conditions
II. What we want
a. Guaranteed minimum increases
b. Clear teaching and research assistantship expectations

PGSU wants Princeton graduate workers to have a say in the terms of our employment and compensation! Because graduate workers currently don’t have contracts, our work expectations and compensation are dictated unilaterally by faculty and the administration. Graduate students and workers across departments are uniting to demand secure employment positions, fair funding based on realistic degree completion times (often beyond 5 years), and insulation from fluctuations in external funding.

Graduate workers should have a seat at the table in shaping the demands and expectations of our work, and we should be able to agree to specific terms before each term of employment. Successful contracts at peer institutions lay out clear expectations regarding the amount and duration of work expected, as well as guaranteed compensation and benefits. Currently, graduate compensation at Princeton is allocated according to the whims of the administration. By contrast, having a contract would allow stipends and hourly wages to be maintained and to continue to rise with increases in the cost of living. Having these expectations and guarantees clarified and enforced would allow us to focus on our work instead of navigating unclear responsibilities and worrying about our financial security.

The bottom line: an institution with Princeton’s vast financial resources should not leave graduate students in financial precarity for any part of their degrees. PGSU wants to unite the voices of all graduate workers at Princeton to demand a contract and fair compensation for our labor.

What our unionized peers have

Guaranteed wage increases

The most recent graduate union contract at New York University secured a 4% increase in stipends (higher than comparable raises at Princeton), as well as a 100% raise in hourly wages over five years to $20/hr. The contract also stipulated that graduate workers assigned to teaching duties (including leading precepts and laboratory sections) would be compensated at least as much as adjunct faculty [Article XVII, §A].

Clear work expectations

The University of Michigan’s graduate union contract ensures regular class sizes [Article XVII], clear grading obligations [Article IX, §A], reasonable notice for additional responsibilities (especially during University recesses) [Article XXI, §I], and exemption from being required to attend grading sessions past 1AM [Article XXI, §I].

At Rutgers University, graduate workers receive appointment letters before each term describing the work expectations for the appointment (either research or teaching assistantships) [Article XII, §A].

Accountability regarding work conditions

Graduate workers at the University of Michigan are guaranteed access to necessary resources (e.g., an office for holding office hours) [Article XXI, §E].

The graduate workers at New York University have successfully bargained for biannual labor-management meetings to address issues involving workplace health and safety, especially in laboratories [Article XIII, §B].

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What we want

Guaranteed minimum conditions

We need a contract that is fair to all graduate workers across the university—one that establishes a strong baseline for stipends with regular increases linked to cost of living. PGSU will bargain for guaranteed funding that aligns with expected time to completion (often far beyond 5 years), and to raise and establish standards for funding during summers and for work-related travel and expenses.

Clear teaching and research assistantship expectations

Our contract should benefit all AIs and ARs: ensuring maximal job security, setting clear expectations for reasonable work hours and responsibilities, and raising standards for compensation. PGSU would not accept a contract that limits any worker’s employment opportunities or caps the number of hours we are allowed to work. In cases where work exceeds the duties or hours stipulated by a contract, graduate workers should have optional recourse to additional compensation or a formal grievance procedure.

As an example, the union contract at Rutgers University stipulates an expected workload for TA/RA duties of no more than 15 hours per week, on average, while the rest of the student’s time is reserved for work associated with academic progress towards the student’s degree [Article XII, §C].  If a graduate worker is required to exceed this workload, the worker may choose to invoke the grievance procedures. However, the contract also urges workers to seek resolution of these issues through informal meetings (with a department chair, for example), without immediately invoking the grievance procedures. Furthermore, the contract explicitly states that it “should not in any way be construed as imposing a limit on the amount of academic work necessary for a student to make satisfactory academic progress toward his/her degree.”

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