At the University of Chicago, Graduate Students United (GSU) has been working since 2007 to improve the lives of graduate student workers by building collective power in the form of a labor union.
GSU brings together graduate students from departments and divisions across the university to regularly meet, discuss, and organize towards practical reforms that improve the workplace conditions of all graduate workers.
What is a Labor Union?
A labor union is a collective of workers organizing together to improve their working conditions. Graduate students do invaluable work in sustaining the day-to-day operations of the University of Chicago, supporting the research of their advisors, teaching undergraduate students, and doing ground-breaking, careful research in their own right. Without a recognized union, we have no say in the conditions of the labor that we provide.
We recognize not all issues affect us equally, but believe in the importance of working in solidarity with one another. We believe in creating a labor movement for the twenty-first century that can address racism, sexism, and ableism in our workplaces using our collective power.
What Have We Achieved?
Most recently, we have secured coverage of the Student Services Fee for all PhD students across divisions from August 2022 onwards (amounting to a 4% raise on top of a cost-of-living increase). Since 2007, we’ve won dramatic pay increases, better healthcare, improved parental leave policies, stipends for childcare, and a freeze in Advanced Residency tuition.
We won a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election for recognition in 2017, although the university has refused to recognize us legally and bargain for a fair contract. As we explore future options for national affiliation and legal recognition amid a changing political landscape, we continue to organize for a meaningful say in determining the wages, benefits, and workplace protections that we all deserve as graduate student workers.
What Do We Do?
GSU organizes within our departments and across divisions to address workplace issues affecting graduate workers across campus. We work collectively to address these issues through our Organizing Committee and make democratic decisions about union-wide campaigns at our General Members Meetings. We provide spaces and resources dedicated to serving the needs of our members and local community through the Mutual Aid Committee. We work to develop trusting relationships and practices that ensure that organizing conflict is made generative and not harmful through our Care and Accountability Committee. In the Anti-Racism Working Group, we work out of our love for one another to challenge and dismantle white-supremacist structures.
To learn more about our work and to get involved, see our Get Involved page.