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WPI-GWU Bargaining Updates and Information

96% of graduate workers who voted in our election voted to form our union on Nov 2-3, 2022!

After a two-day election, we voted overwhelmingly to form our union, with a final count of 364 yes votes to 15 no votes, a 96% yes vote! The result represents 68% of graduate workers supporting our union!

After nearly 60% of graduate workers signed a public petition to vote yes for our union, even more graduate workers turned out to our historic election!

Now we begin our next steps of preparing for bargaining with the administration. That will include electing our bargaining committee and filling our bargaining surveys to help us negotiate our first union contract.

More is to come, but for today, congratulations!

Who are we?

We are student workers forming a union in order to improve our research and working conditions at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Our work as researchers and teachers not only drives the academic mission at WPI, but also produces scientific knowledge that can benefit the greater community. While we work across many specializations, our dedication to our work unites us all.

By forming a student worker union, we can build a stronger, more democratic voice at WPI, with more power to negotiate for improvements and to secure our rights and conditions into a legally-binding contract.

Forming a union with the United Auto Workers (UAW) in particular means joining tens of thousands of student workers and other higher education employees who are already part of the UAW – this includes student workers and other academic workers at Harvard University, Columbia University, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts, University of California, and University of Washington. By working together with these and other academic unions across the country, we can also build political power beyond WPI to impact funding policies at the national, state, and local levels that shape our experience in academia.

Why form a union?

A living wage

The cost of living in the Worcester area has increased by 32.02% in the last ten years. Meanwhile, we have not received a raise in a long time and student worker fees continue to increase. Together, this decreases the amount that we take home while increasing the difficulty in making ends meet.

With a union, we hope to bargain with the WPI administration to negotiate for raises, just like other student workers at Harvard University, Columbia University, UMass (they are currently in negotiations), UConn, UC, and UW.

Improving our healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased awareness in the importance of maintaining both our physical and mental health. The student healthcare plan provided by the university has increased significantly in cost throughout the pandemic while offering little to no improvements.

With a union, we hope to bargain for improvements to our healthcare plan, while securing quality dental and vision coverage like workers have done at other universities like Harvard University and Columbia University.

Protections from harassment, discrimination and bullying

Student workers deserve protections from harassment, discrimination and academic bullying while we do our vital work at our institution.

Too often we see colleagues experience these terrible circumstances, with little recourse, and too often are they forced to transfer out, or worse, drop out of academia altogether.

With a union, we can bargain for a grievance procedure to help protect us from harassment, discrimination, and bullying. A fair grievance procedure would put these cases in front of a neutral arbitrator, paid for by both the union and university, to put us on equal footing with the administration. This means the decisions and judgements will be made based on the facts, and not by people who are paid by the university with the universityʼs interests in mind.

We have seen these improvements at other institutions like University of Connecticut, University of California, and University of Washington, and we hope to do the same.

With a union, we hope to bargain for improvements for our marginalized members.

A more equitable workplace

With a union, we hope to bargain for improvements for our marginalized members.

Parents: Student workers have won benefits for parents such as guaranteed lactation stations on campus, and can negotiate for assistance with childcare costs[AB1] . In addition, with the harassment, discrimination and bullying grievance procedures mentioned above, we hope to help student workers feel comfortable with their choice to become a parent.

International Students: Due to visa limitations, international students can be some of our most vulnerable workers because their limited ability to find employment can lead to predatory academic advisors and PIs taking advantage of them. With a union, we can bargain for improvements to get us a living wage, and win protections for our most vulnerable community members. In addition, student worker unions can negotiate to reduce or prevent international student fees, and assist international students with legal costs related to their visas.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is WPI-Graduate workers union (WPI-GWU)?

Why are student workers forming a union at WPI?

What is collective bargaining?

Why did we choose the UAW?

What is the difference between the Graduate Student Government (GSG) and a union?

Once we form a union, how do we participate in the process?

Will international students benefit from joining the UAW?

What are the rights of international students to join the union?

Can WPI retaliate against me or put my visa at risk for participating in a union?

What are union dues and when would we start paying?

Where would our union dues go?

Will we have to strike?

Where will the money come from for pay increases?

Will having a union damage my relationship with my PI/Advisor?

My PI does not have a lot of money. Will a union hurt our PIs or lead to fewer positions?

Does everyone in a union have to make the same amount?

I heard an administrator say if we unionize and negotiate pay increases, we might have fewer jobs overall.

Would I be included in the student worker union?