In 2018, we surveyed our membership and identified five major issues affecting graduate workers at the University of Chicago:
- Low and Late Payments
- Substandard Healthcare
- Housing Affordability
- Lack of Support for Grad Student Parents
- Discrimination and Harassment
We keep these key issues at the forefront when we’re building our campaigns and deciding what to focus on. Recognition would give us the ability to take on these issues by negotiating improvements as part of our contract.
Recognition and Bargaining a Contract
We believe that a formally recognized union that bargains with our employer for a legally binding contract is the best way to improve our workplaces and graduate education at the University of Chicago overall. For this reason, we have been campaigning toward legal recognition since 2016. While we won a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) vote in October 2017, we were forced to withdraw our petition for certification from the NLRB due to Trump appointees who were hostile to labor. The University has since refused to do their duty and voluntarily recognize and bargain with us. We continue to campaign for recognition and are exploring our options for national affiliation and a new recognition strategy under a friendlier Biden-appointed NLRB.
Eliminating the Student Services Fee
In the meantime, we have been organizing without the legal protections of recognition and a contract to achieve immediate material wins for graduate workers. In 2021, we kicked off a campaign to pressure UChicago to eliminate the Student Services Fee (SSF) throughout the COVID-19 pandemic due to the diminished accessibility of on-campus services and dire financial situations faced by our members. We also demanded increased transparency about the collection and uses of the SSF. As part of this campaign, hundreds of graduate workers collectively withheld payment of their fees, accruing over $100,000 in debt owed to the University. A year into this campaign, we updated our demands to call for the elimination of the SSF altogether. We had a major victory in January 2022, with administrators announcing that, beginning in Autumn 2022, the SSF would be covered as part of funding packages for all PhD students. We continue to organize around our other demands in this campaign.
Archival Documents about our Campaign
2018 survey conducted to learn about the needs of graduate students.
Official Report of Proceedings before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region 13, Chicago, IL, May 18 to May 26 and May 30 to June 1.
Alumni and current students distributed a petition in support of Graduate Students United, which recognized both the labor performed by graduate teaching and research assistants as well as called on the University to halt its legal challenges and recognize GSU.
Solidarity statements were issued in support of GSU’s unionization drive for graduate workers at the University of Chicago.
Graduate Students United believes in the importance of solidarity actions and shows of support. Here you will find statements of solidarity voted on and approved by the membership at General Members Meetings (GMMs).