American University Graduate Student Workers Win Historic Union Election

Become First Graduate Students in Nation’s Capital to Form a Union as part of National Faculty Forward Movement to Raise Standards in Higher Education


Hundreds of research assistants and teaching assistants at American University voted overwhelmingly to join Service Employees International Union Local 500, which represents thousands of employees in higher education in the Washington metropolitan area, including adjunct and contingent faculty at American University, Georgetown University, Howard University, the George Washington University, Goucher College, McDaniel College, the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), the University of the District of Columbia, Trinity Washington University and Montgomery College.

Today’s victory came after a long process of listening to the stories and concerns of graduate student workers at American University,” said Scott Patrick, a first-year doctoral student in Government and Comparative Politics. “Forming a union was never about quick fixes to issues, but about creating a space for developing long term solutions to issues like economic and academic uncertainty. As we now think about sitting down with the administration and working on a first contract, I truly believe that this will be a collaborative process, focused on strengthening the academic mission of American University. Now we can begin the work of negotiating with the administration to build an even stronger institution and support our work of academic research and instruction.”

Graduate student workers at American University built support for their organizing drive by coalescing parents, students, faculty, and the broader community around the core vision of reclaiming higher education as a public good, which paved the way for the victory.

As part the growing Faculty Forward national movement, American University graduate students are urging decision makers and administrators to transform our higher education system plagued with crippling student debt, unaffordable tuition, and educators relying on public assistance to make ends meet.

Last Monday, the American University graduate student workers stood with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Capitol Hill as the legislators introduced the College For All Act, a legislation to make public colleges and universities tuition-free for working families and to significantly reduce student debt.