Graduate student workers are helping lead the movement to change higher education. Already, 54,000 faculty and graduate student workers on 60 campuses have joined the Faculty Forward movement and formed unions.
We have won small things like gym access and bigger battles like an end to multi-thousand dollar continuation fees. We’ve improved our working conditions and wages, spoke out for debt-free college for all, won commitments from candidates to support smart higher education policies, fought national legislation that would hurt graduate students workers and been part of the fight to pass legislation that ensures part-time faculty makes wages on par with their full-time counterparts. You can see the impact of our movement in greater detail here.
How It Works
Are you interested in uniting with your colleagues and forming a union? Here’s how you can get started.
- Find out more. Read our FAQ.
- Reach out to us.
- Connect with your coworkers and sign up members.
- File for an election.
- Negotiate your first contract.
Our Recent Victories
Professors push presidential candidates to include a voice for educators in higher education reform proposalsJul 17, 2019
Contingent professors with SEIU Faculty Forward have joined with students and families across the country to demand college for all, student loan debt forgiveness and a minimum of $15 an hour and the right to join a union for all campus employees. In response to this overwhelming demand from voters, candidates are proposing plans that address loan debt and accessibility. Now, professors are urging candidates to include a voice for educators in their plans. They say that no higher education reform bill can be truly transformative if the people who spend every day in the classroom don’t have a voice in its execution.
Professors at the University of Iowa met with Gov. Jay Inslee at a local diner Monday, just two weeks after their meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders to discuss their plans for higher education reform legislation and how to make it more effective. Marquette professors met Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week and she committed to drafting a letter in support of their union effort.
In all these engagements, professors called on candidates to make it easier for them to come together with their colleagues and address low wages, lack of benefits and lack of job security. As a result, Former Secretary Julian Castro recently incorporated edits to his legislation that would ensure fair pay for all campus employees and protect educators’ right to a voice on the job.
These kinds of gains are only possible because educators are united in a powerful movement. With more than 60,000 graduate workers and faculty members on 70 campuses, plus countless students, families and staff supporters, it's clear that candidates understand their power when they stick together.
Read more here. See tweets from Sanders, Inslee and Warren.Read More
On Wednesday, July 3 members of Faculty Forward Iowa met in a small closed meeting with Sen. Bernie Sanders to discuss the unique challenges facing college and university professors. 16 University of Iowa non-tenure track faculty members attended the meeting, some accompanied by their family members.
The group applauded the senator’s efforts to address soaring tuition and student loan debt in higher education and expressed the importance of ensuring that the educators who actually spend time in the classroom day in and day out have a voice on the job. Worker leaders told the story of a two-year effort to fight for a union at their school, despite facing some of the most unfriendly union legislation in the country, and the progress they have made in winning expansions of health coverage and organizing their colleagues.
Professor Erik Westlund shared with Sen. Sanders his personal journey in education, having started his career as a high school teacher with full benefits, job security and union protections, and then going back to school for a graduate degree and becoming a college professor who has no benefits, no job security, and little opportunity for advancement. He ended by saying that after six years, he makes exactly the same amount now as he did as a high school teacher-–minus the benefits and protections.
As the meeting came to its close, Bernie summarized his shock and solidarity with their struggle: "You're getting ripped off big time," he said, "not by a private company, not by the Waltons, by a public institution...You are the future of America, you should be treated well." He further advised the professors in the room to band together with students and publicly demand the university act.Read More
After coming together on campus over the past year, Washington University in St. Louis campus workers and housekeepers won a path to a $15 wage, helping them support their families and communities. This major victory comes after a coalition of workers, including grad workers, occupied the front lawn of the campus administration building for 33 days.
“Housekeepers, graduate workers and campus workers at WashU came together across racial lines and different backgrounds to fight for the $15 we need to support our families and improve our neighborhoods,” said Local 1 WashU housekeeper Gary Johnson. “We showed our region that a $15 wage isn’t just possible, it’s essential in making St. Louis a better place for all working families.”
Starting July 1, 2021, nearly 1,200 regular and contracted workers will see their pay raised to $15 an hour, lifting the St. Louis region for all working people and illustrating the growing support for a $15 wage for working families.
WashU graduate workers, with the support of housekeepers and campus workers, will continue to fight for $15, a union voice and childcare to make sure WashU lives up to its mission and is a better place for all working people.
“The increase to $15 is a really important victory for workers at WashU,” said Washington University Graduate Workers Union (WUGWU) member Grace Ward. “As a member of WUGWU, I’m proud of the coalition that came together in this fight, and I’m looking forward to continuing to organize with housekeepers, service workers, undergrads, faculty, and activists in the wider St. Louis community. Direct action works, and we’re going to keep it up.”
Across the country, there is a national coordinated fight for $15 campaign across campuses that is picking up wins. Graduate workers are increasing the pressure on their employers to raise stipends to a minimum living wage, in addition to better working conditions. After a series of protests and a high profile campaigns, graduate workers at Duke University and Emory University won $31,000 year stipend— the equivalent of $15 an hour for year-round, full-time work.
Read more.Read More
Over 100 non-tenure track faculty at Occidental College voted to join SEIU Local 721. Tuesday’s landmark yes vote comes after a months-long organizing drive that saw scores of faculty and students working together to raise standards and improve working conditions for faculty at the nationally renowned liberal arts college.
“We're heartened by the strong showing of support in today's vote by Occidental's faculty,” said Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Brian Clearwater. “This puts us in a solid position to obtain a contract that reflects the excellent teaching and service that Occidental's non-tenure track faculty do.”
Occidental College faculty are the latest in the growing, nationwide movement of faculty and graduate students taking action to address the crisis of corporatization in higher education. Their victory marks the fifth successful Los Angeles election through SEIU’s Faculty Forward initiative.
“My Occidental colleagues are an inspiration,” said Desiree Zamorano, a non-tenure track professor of education. “May we together inspire faculty and graduate students organizing at other campuses across the country.”
· Read more in The Eastsider and spread the word on Twitter.
Adjunct professors at Lake-Sumter State College kicked off the end of semester celebrations with a bang as they voted decisively to form their union with SEIU Florida Public Services Union (FPSU). They’re the sixth group of adjuncts to form their union in Florida as part of the growing push for increased investment in the state’s colleges and universities.
“Today, we have taken an important step towards achieving fairness at Lake-Sumter State College,” said Joseph Silver, an adjunct professor who teaches biological sciences at Lake-Sumter State College. “Adjuncts teach the majority of classes at Lake-Sumter, yet many of us can’t cover the basics. It’s time for us to come together and ensure that adjunct faculty can earn a living, while providing students a great education.”
Adjunct faculty at Lake-Sumter State College are some of the poorest paid adjunct professors in Florida, with professors earning 12% below the state median. In winning their union, Lake-Sumter State College faculty join their colleagues at Hillsborough Community College, Broward College, University of South Florida, Seminole State College and Miami Dade College who have already formed their unions with SEIU Faculty Forward in Florida.
“We congratulate our adjunct colleagues for winning their union election and look forward to working together to make Lake-Sumter a better institution for our wonderful students,” said Debby Hicks, a full-time professor and one of the leaders of the full-time faculty union campaign at Lake-Sumter State College. “All faculty members, whether adjuncts or full-time, deserve to have direct representation to address the issues that matter most: making sure our students get the best education possible.”
Read more in the Daily Commercial and twitter.Read More