Assistant Provost Phil He has recently sent emails regarding our democratic campaign to organize a union for all graduate workers. We have faced cut stipends, inadequate healthcare, broken promises, and minimal research funds, all while the university sees record enrollment and a jump in rankings. The messages sent by the administration contain many misleading statements about our entirely student-led campaign, and we want to set the record straight. As graduate workers, we do the teaching, research, and grant-writing that make Northeastern run, and Northeastern does not want to share power and give us the respect we deserve.

Here are the facts:

  • “The Autoworkers” aren’t asking graduate student workers to sign Authorization cards – fellow graduate workers are. We are organizing our union with the United Auto Workers, which represents the most graduate workers of any union, more than 40,000 and counting!
  • Union cards will only be seen by the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency charged with the protection of all workers’ (including international workers’) rights [1]. The only reason the administration describes the routine process of the NLRB running our election as submitting “signed cards to the federal government” is to scare the international students in our community. This is fear-mongering, and we strongly reject this shameless attempt to scare members of our community.
  • Union dues would be 1.44% of your salary, but we pay them only after we have a democratically approved a contract that we have voted on [2], which in recent contracts included raises that cover dues. Dues will go toward fighting for the priorities that are important to us.
  • There’s a reason administrators want “flexibility.” Right now, many grad workers’ appointments are characterized by “flexibility” for administrators and uncertainty for grad workers. Collective bargaining would allow us to gain a measure of security in our positions, pay, and benefits.
  • You do not lose your individual voice in your graduate experience. In fact, union representation amplifies the voices of grad workers and allows us to influence the conditions of our work and education. Additionally, if you encounter a problem with your advisor, department, or your work, a union will support you in filing a grievance.
  • Contracts do not mean that every department is treated the same. At the University of Washington, for example, graduate workers voted on a contract that allows different pay rates for each department.
  • The union doesn’t “control” decisions about our work and pay. We are the union. We make those decisions collectively and democratically. Every recent graduate student union contract has successfully bargained for higher stipends. Without a union, stipends can be arbitrarily cut or changed by the administration.
  • Strikes are never compulsory. Strikes are rare. 99% of contracts are negotiated without going on strike! Strikes are also democratically authorized by a 2/3 vote of union members [3], and nobody will ever “demand” that you strike – only you decide whether or not to join one.



[2] UAW Constitution, Article 1, Section 2-(e), page 42; Accessible at:

[3] UAW Constitution, Article 50, Section 1, page 122; Ibid.