To: Faculty and Graduate Students
From: Katherine Baicker, Provost
Subject: Graduate Student Union Bargaining Update
Date: January 24, 2024

Since May 31, 2023, the University has been bargaining with GSU-UE on a labor contract to support the continued success of all graduate students. There have been 15 bargaining sessions thus far, totaling nearly 90 hours of constructive, good-faith conversations towards our shared goals.

Through these conversations, we’ve made encouraging progress on many important issues, and I wanted to share some updates about the negotiations.

Non-economic proposals

At our first bargaining session in May, GSU-UE presented 19 non-economic proposals, which are proposals related to aspects of employment such as assignment posting, assignment notices, scope of work, health and safety, codification of intellectual property rights, grievance and arbitration processes, and who is in the union. Tentative agreements between the University and the GSU-UE bargaining team have been reached on nearly all non-economic provisions.

Economic proposals

On October 17, negotiations turned to economic proposals, which are proposals related to aspects of employment such as wages, benefits, and time off. The University and GSU-UE have not reached agreements on these provisions but have been holding extensive good-faith conversations.

The union’s initial economic proposals would require approximately $50 million in new University spending in the first year, and included:

  • Raising the annualized minimum funding for PhD students by 36% compared to last year to $45,000 for 2023–2024 retroactively. The union also proposed that PhD students whose funding level is already above $45,000 be awarded 6% increases retroactively for 2023–2024.

  • Further raising the annualized minimum funding for PhD students by at least 6% for both the 2024–2025 and 2025–2026 academic years, in addition to the increases above.

  • Making health, dental, and vision care virtually cost-free for bargaining unit members (benefits that are not available to University faculty or staff). The University already ensures full coverage of individual student health insurance premiums for PhD students.

  • Substantially increasing childcare benefits, including $5,000 for the birth or adoption of a child, an annual dependent care stipend up to $9,500, additional need-based childcare reimbursements up to $10,000, and additional reimbursements for unplanned costs.

  • Adding University coverage of 100% of student fees and immigration-related fees.

Negotiations have proceeded through multiple counteroffers. The University’s current offer includes:

  • Raising the annualized minimum funding for PhD students by 8.1% to $40,000 for 2024–2025 and raising this minimum by 3.5% for 2025–2026 and by 3% for 2026–2027.

  • Increasing funding by 2% in each of the three years for students whose funding is already above the minimum.

  • Increasing the current $2,000 childcare stipend to $3,600 and providing adoption assistance.

  • Additional payments to students for dental wellness, vision wellness, immigration-related fees, transportation assistance, and retirement readiness.

The University is grateful for the union bargaining team’s continued engagement in the process and for the discussions that have occurred at the bargaining table. While we will continue to work collaboratively to meaningfully enhance compensation for graduate students who serve in teaching and research roles for the University, we must also find an agreement that is financially sustainable for the University as a whole.

The University remains deeply committed to robust graduate programs, and this year will spend about $135,000,000 on funding and benefits for our graduate students, in addition to substantial programmatic support and tuition support for PhD students, who do not typically pay tuition to earn their degree.

We look forward to ongoing bargaining discussions and will provide additional updates on negotiations. Our goal remains to reach a collective bargaining agreement that is financially sound for the University’s future and that maintains the University of Chicago as a world-class institution for graduate study. 

Graduate Education