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

American University graduate workers win their first contract

American University graduate workers win their first contract

Dec 20, 2018

The holidays came early for American University graduate workers, who voted by a 10-to-1 margin to ratify their first union contract. Among their many wins, their contract includes wage increases, greater job security, health benefits, an established grievance process with binding arbitration, the ability to take outside employment, and respect of roles and responsibilities. They are the first bargaining unit of grad students in Local 500 with a collective bargaining agreement. They are also the fourth graduate worker unit in the country to win a contract since the National Labor Relations Board recognized their rights as workers. Graduate workers at Tufts and Brandeis universities won the second and third contracts earlier this semester.

“While as individuals, we have limited ability to make meaningful change, collectively we have the power to do so. The contract provides us a mechanism to partner with decision‐makers at AU to improve the quality of research and undergraduate instruction, while strengthening graduate programs themselves,” the bargaining team stated in a letter to their colleagues.

To learn more, visit http://www.seiu500.org/2018/12/american-university-graduate-student-worker-union/.

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Professors at Seven Florida Colleges File for their Union

Professors at Seven Florida Colleges File for their Union

Dec 14, 2018

Professors at 7 Florida colleges file for their union, putting the majority of adjuncts in the state college system on the path to a union

In the face of chronic higher education defunding, adjunct professors at Santa Fe College, St. Petersburg College, Lake Sumter Community College, Polk State College, Florida Gateway College, Chipola College and South Florida State College filed for their unions with SEIU FPSU Faculty Forward this week. In just two short years, 9,000 adjunct professors — 55 percent of those in the state college system — have organized or are moving to a union. These faculty members are the latest to join the wave of Florida educators organizing for fully-funded college for all, student loan forgiveness, and $15 an hour and a union for all campus employees.

“I’m tired of seeing my students and coworkers skip meals and doctors’ appointments,” said Angela Edwards-Luckett, an adjunct professor of World Religions at St. Petersburg College. “That’s why I’m joining with my fellow educators from across the state and across the country. We can’t afford to sit quietly and just hope things change.”

With this historic mass filing, adjuncts join their colleagues at six additional colleges and universities -- Hillsborough Community College, Broward College, University of South Florida, Seminole State College, Valencia College and Miami Dade College -- who have already filed for or formed their unions.

"We are witnessing an unprecedented upswing in organizing amongst college faculty. The fact that in just two years, the majority of adjunct professors in the Florida College System are on their way to union representation,” said Dr. Judith Bernier, director of the Florida International University Center for Labor Research and Studies. “This level of union representation reflects deep dissatisfaction with a college system that has pushed many students and educators into poverty through increased tuition, mounting student loan debt, and low wages. Uniting in one organization gives this group a collective voice and a powerful say in the future of education in the state."

Read more in the Tampa Bay Times, Florida Phoenix, Politico, Bloomberg Law and the  The Ledger.

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville teaching assistants file for their union

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville teaching assistants file for their union

Dec 07, 2018

Within months of the formation of a graduate workers union at Illinois State University, two landmark first contracts for graduate workers at Tufts and Brandeis universities and Emory graduate workers winning a $15 an hour minimum wage, the majority of teaching assistants at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) filed for official recognition of their union last week with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. 

While graduate teaching assistants are able to form their union, Governor Bruce Rauner recently vetoed a bill that would have granted another subset of graduate assistants -- including research assistants, pre-professional and administrative assistants -- the right to organize in Illinois.   

“All graduate workers make an essential contribution to our colleges and universities. It’s time those contributions are recognized,” said Jen Yoder, a teaching assistant in English. “Graduate workers shouldn’t be forced to skip meals or doctor’s appointments, because of low wages and lack of benefits. That’s why we’re coming together at SIUE and across the country to change things for our colleagues and for our students. We all deserve a voice.”

· Read Bloomberg Law and SEIU Faculty Forward for more on graduate workers’ victories.

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Elon University Faculty launch their campaign for a union

Elon University Faculty launch their campaign for a union

Nov 29, 2018

Non-tenure track faculty at Elon University took a big step forward today by officially filing for their union and hosting a campus-wide march on the boss. Faculty, students and community supporters sent a strong message of solidarity to Elon President Connie Ledoux Book by marching to her office and demanding the administration to work with faculty to address the low wages, inconsistent benefits and lack of inclusion in the campus community that faculty say limit their ability to provide a quality education for students.

“Today, we, the non-tenure track, are almost half of Elon’s faculty. Though we have different relationships and responsibilities to Elon, we are highly qualified and dedicated and bring unique skill sets to this university,” wrote the organizing committee of Elon Faculty Forward in an op ed. “The discrepancy between what non-tenure track faculty contributes to this campus versus the tangible and intangible inequalities experienced by the same group indicates there are still places where Elon can improve as a community. In order to make these needed changes, non-tenure track faculty at Elon have decided to come together to form a union.”

Special guest speakers at the march included MaryBe McMillian, President of the NC AFL-CIO

Read more about the campaign in News & Record and The Pendulum

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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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See all our victories