Tufts University Graduate Workers in the School of Arts and Sciences Win First Union Contract

Today, Tufts University graduate workers in the School of Arts & Sciences announced a tentative union contract agreement. Their new contract includes 12-19% 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.

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. The announcement comes within weeks of Brandeis University graduate workers winning the first graduate worker contract (which included up to 56 percent wage increases over the life of the contract) since the National Labor Relations Board acknowledged graduate workers’ right to form a union. The Tufts’ graduate contract is only the third such contract in the country.

“We’re thrilled to reach this agreement with Tufts. Paid parental leave is an unprecedented victory – in fact, most faculty without tenure don’t have anything close to that,” said Peter MacKinnon, president of SEIU Local 509. “Just like any other job, our members want the assurance that their families are safe and secure. As graduate workers gain momentum, we look forward to welcoming hundreds – if not thousands – of new brothers and sisters in the years to come.”    

Just last week, Emory University, one of many institutions that has faced national demands from graduate workers for a $15 an hour minimum wage for all campus employees, announced it would raise graduate workers’ pay. Graduate workers at Emory will receive pay increases of up to 29% starting next year winning a salary of $31,000/year — the equivalent of $15 an hour for year-round, full-time work — after more than two years of organizing for a living wage.

“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,” said Emory graduate worker and SEIU EmoryUnite! member Isaac Horwedel.

The graduate workers on these four campuses are part of SEIU Faculty and Graduate Workers Forward, a movement to improve higher education in this country by calling for more investment in our students at colleges and universities and an end to crippling student debt. Members of SEIU Faculty and Graduate Workers Forward have joined together to make sure that no professor or graduate worker lives in poverty and everyone has access to a quality higher education.