Our Impact

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.

  1. Find out more. Read our FAQ.
  2. Reach out to us.
  3. Connect with your coworkers and sign up members.
  4. File for an election.
  5. Vote.
  6. Negotiate your first contract.

Our Recent Victories

ISU graduate workers win election

ISU graduate workers win election

Oct 18, 2018

After a day of on-site voting graduate workers at Illinois State University won their union election Thursday night by a margin of nearly 5-to-1. They will join SEIU Local 73. Years of state budget cuts have led to to poverty-level stipends as low as $400 a month for ISU’s graduate workers. Inspired by the gains the Duke, Washington University, Brandeis, Tufts, Loyola Chicago and Emory graduate workers have won with SEIU, ISU started organizing last year and are now ready to take their seat at the table.

“I am organizing because I believe a living wage is a human right,” said Lydia Marvin, a graduate worker in the Department of Psychology. “I currently have to work a second job to make ends meet, and this takes away from both my students' education and my own. I am voting yes to improve wages so I can do my best work as both a grad worker and a grad student.”

This latest win adds to growing momentum for graduate workers, the teaching and research assistants who work for the university while pursuing their doctorates and masters degrees, who have mounted organizing campaigns across the country. Graduate workers from Tufts University and Brandeis University recently won their first union contracts, which included higher stipends and benefits. Graduate workers at Emory University also won wage increases to $15 per hour.

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Graduate worker movement gains momentum: Workers at Tufts, Emory, Brandeis, Washington universities continue to win job improvements

Graduate worker movement gains momentum: Workers at Tufts, Emory, Brandeis, Washington universities continue to win job improvements

Oct 12, 2018

Just weeks after Brandeis University teaching and research assistants won up to 56 percent wage increases in the first graduate worker contract in the country since the National Labor Relations Board acknowledged graduate workers’ right to form a union and Emory University graduate workers won a $15 an hour minimum wage, Tufts University graduate workers in the School of Arts & Sciences won their first tentative union contract including 12-19 percent raises over the next four years, critical improvements to health and safety protections, and a landmark contractual victory for private sector graduate workers: 12 weeks of parental leave, an unprecedented win among graduate worker and faculty contracts.

On the same day, MSNBC featured Brandon Wilson, a member of the Washington University Graduate Workers Union/Graduate Workers United, who detailed the $15 for All Campus Workers campaign and what issues really matter to students and workers on campus.

Read more coverage of the Tufts graduate workers’ victory in the Associated Press, Bloomberg BNA and the Boston Globe.

Watch the powerful MSNBC interview of Brandon Wilson.

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Emory graduate workers win $15

Emory graduate workers win $15

Oct 04, 2018

Just as Amazon announced that it would raise wages to a $15/hr minimum for all of its employees, Emory University announced that it would also be raising wages for graduate workers to $31,000 a year — the equivalent of $15 an hour for year-round, full-time work. The announcement of up to a 29% wage increase is the result of a national 2-year, high-profile national campaign by graduate workers demanding $15 an hour for all campus employees. Over this period they have rallied outside administrative offices, organized public support from undergraduate students and tenured faculty allies, and showed up at board meetings to make their demands heard.

The announcement also came just as graduate workers and faculty planned to join striking fast food and airport workers to demand elected officials support their demands for a union voice. Below is a statement from an Emory graduate worker with SEIU EmoryUnite!, Isaac Horwedel.

"We are very excited Emory University has responded to our demands for a living wage for its graduate workers. This pay increase will mean the difference between making rent or not for me and many of my fellow workers, and is a step in the right direction toward improving working conditions on campus. We hope that Emory University will work with us to expand living wages to all campus employees."

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Brandeis grad workers ratify first contract with administrators

Brandeis grad workers ratify first contract with administrators

Sep 18, 2018

Graduate students at Brandeis University today announced that they have ratified a  contract settlement with campus administrators – a three-year agreement that makes significant increases in compensation – up to 56% over the life of the contract – and gives graduate student workers access to the same professional development opportunities as faculty, academic freedom and workplace protections, and a voice in the decisions that affect their work.

The settlement is the first contract for graduate assistants at Brandeis, who voted overwhelmingly in May 2017 to form a union with SEIU Local 509. This is the first contract for graduate student workers at a private university since the 2015 NLRB decision that gave them the right to unionize. Brandeis graduate assistants also now have the first collective bargaining agreement at a private university in New England.

“Our teaching conditions are our students’ learning conditions. We want to be paid fairly for the jobs we do, and it’s important to be able to safely deal with conflicts in the workplace: both on behalf of our students and for ourselves,” said Kalee Hall, a graduate student in English at Brandeis. “We are committed to making Brandeis better, and the Administration is too. This contract shows how we can make Brandeis better by all working together and negotiating.”

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Brandeis grad workers reach historic contract settlement with university

Brandeis grad workers reach historic contract settlement with university

Aug 28, 2018

In a major victory for graduate workers organizing across the country, graduate workers at Brandeis University today announced that they have reached a tentative contract settlement with the university. The announced three-year tentative agreement is the first contract for graduate student workers at a private university since the 2016 NLRB decision that gave them the right to unionize. Brandeis graduate assistants also now have the first grad worker collective bargaining agreement at a private university in New England.

“Our teaching conditions are our students’ learning conditions. We want to be paid fairly for the jobs we do, and it’s important to be able to safely deal with conflicts in the workplace: both on behalf of our students and for ourselves,” said Kalee Hall, a graduate student in English at Brandeis. “We are committed to making Brandeis better, and the Administration is too. This contract shows how we can make Brandeis better by all working together and negotiating.”

The three-year agreement improves wages by up to 56% over the life of the contract and gives graduate workers access to the same professional development opportunities as faculty, academic freedom and workplace protections, and a voice in the decisions that affect their work.

“We’re the workers that make Brandeis work. With this contract, we’re being recognized for the valuable work that we do. We’re going to have a seat at the table and get the respect we deserve,” said Ben Kreider, a graduate student at the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis. “I feel very proud of the work we’ve done and the gains we’ve made on behalf of student workers.”

These achievements are the result of ten months of bargaining between graduate workers and administrators from the University. The tentative settlement is subject to a ratification vote by members of the union. They will join the other members of  SEIU Local 509 with higher education contracts, including part- and full-time faculty at Bentley, Boston University, Brandeis, Lesley, Northeastern and Tufts.

Read more in Boston Globe.

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See all our victories