Discussions Around Potential Graduate Student Unionization
To: Members of the University Community
From: Ka Yee C. Lee, Provost
Subject: Discussions Around Potential Graduate Student Unionization
Date: November 29, 2022
The University of Chicago is deeply committed to supporting our graduate students. We constantly seek opportunities to improve and enhance graduate education and to partner with graduate students on ways to help them make progress in and complete their programs successfully. Measures of the effectiveness of this collaborative approach include the recent improvements to graduate student education at the University.
Discussions about whether graduate students will ultimately vote to be represented by Graduate Students United - United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (GSU-UE) are currently taking place on campus. We value open discourse and free expression and encourage members of the campus community with a wide range of perspectives on unionization to join the conversation. This is an important and complex topic on which reasonable people can disagree.
The University’s position is that graduate student unionization is likely to bring more disadvantages than advantages in the form of additional costs, time, and bureaucracy. We currently engage with graduate students through many direct channels, which we believe are more flexible and responsive to students’ varied needs and better suited to our graduate degree programs than a collective bargaining agreement would be.
Unionization will have a lasting impact on our campus—once a union is certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) as the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit, it remains so indefinitely. Should GSU-UE be certified by the NLRB, it will represent all current and future students in the bargaining unit, regardless of whether students wish to be represented by the union. We encourage all members of our community to learn more about unionization, especially graduate students, who should consider how unionization will personally affect them and their programs, now and in the future. This webpage provides information and considerations about graduate education and unionization.
We are grateful to all the students, faculty, and staff who have worked together to identify and address student concerns and to recommend and implement ongoing improvements to the graduate student experience. We remain committed to the well-being and quality of life of our graduate students, as well as to ensuring that graduate education at the University retains the rigorous intellectual character that has been its hallmark since the University’s founding.