Faculty, students, and staff with questions about the University’s graduate student union that are not answered below may email gradunionhelp@uchicago.edu. View the current contract between the University and the union here.

Last updated: May 16, 2024


Yes. On March 24, 2023, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified the results of a secret ballot election in which a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of union representation by Graduate Students United – United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (GSU-UE).

Yes, the current contract became effective on April 1, 2024, and expires on March 31, 2027. View the contract here.

A bargaining unit consists of similar employees represented collectively by a union, sharing a common interest. The GSU-UE bargaining unit at the University of Chicago includes graduate students enrolled in University of Chicago degree programs who are employed to provide instructional or research services in the College; Divinity School; the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice; Division of the Social Sciences; Division of the Humanities; Division of the Biological Sciences; Division of the Physical Sciences; Booth School of Business; Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy; the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering; and the Law School.

PhD students in the second year of their programs and beyond in the Division of the Biological Sciences, Division of the Physical Sciences, the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, and the Department of Psychology are in the bargaining unit regardless of their title or funding source. All other graduate students are in the bargaining unit only during the time they are employed to provide instructional or research services.

Union Membership, Dues, and Fees

No. No graduate student needs to join GSU-UE; every graduate student who is in a covered teaching or research position may choose not to become a member of GSU-UE, for any reason at all. Such graduate students are not required to state why they do not wish to become a member. If a student decides not to become a member of the union, they must still pay an agency fee as set by the union.

Under the terms of the contract, graduate student employees in the bargaining unit are required to pay either membership dues or agency fees. Membership fees are charged to students who join the union; agency fees are charged to students who choose not to join the union. The union is currently charging graduate student employees membership dues in the amount of 1.44% of their pay; the union currently charges graduate student employees the same 1.44% of pay for agency fees. Paying union membership dues or an agency fee is a condition of employment in union positions. Failure to pay dues or agency fees in a timely way will result in termination of the teaching or research assignment. See the NLRB website for additional information.

The union sets its own membership dues and agency fees. The union also decides how to spend revenue obtained from those whom it represents.

An agency fee is typically a service charge to cover the union’s costs for administering the collective bargaining agreement. Fee payers are not members of the union, though they are still part of the bargaining unit and are covered by the union contract, and the union has a duty to fairly represent all workers covered by the contract. Proceeds from agency fees may not be used for political purposes, such as contributions to candidates for public office, to political action committees, or for political advertising. Graduate student employees who disagree with how the union is spending their agency fees must make their objections to the union; the University has no say in how GSU-UE spends its funds.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires unions and employers to accommodate an employee who holds religious objections to joining or financially supporting a union. Any graduate student employee who seeks a reasonable religious accommodation should make such request to GSU-UE and to the University.

The union asks a graduate student employee to sign a card allowing for the University to make automatic payroll deductions from the graduate student employee’s paycheck for dues or agency fees. The University cannot deduct any dues from a graduate student employee’s paycheck until the card is signed. Graduate students may also choose to pay dues directly to the union. Funds collected through payroll deductions are transferred by the University to the union.

Compensation and Hiring

PhD primary funding research and teaching positions shall be compensated at $45,000 for October 1, 2024–September 30, 2025.

A graduate student employee who is employed in one of the following positions and whose employment in that position is not primary funding related to their academic program shall receive compensation equivalent to the 10-week quarterly amounts (as may be prorated) as follows:

  • Graduate Student Lecturer: $5,163
  • Preceptor: $4,646
  • Graduate Student Teaching Assistant: $3,098
  • Graduate Student Instructional Grader: $1,033

The minimum compensation for Chicago Center for Teaching and Learning Fellows shall be as follows:

  • Lead Fellow: $6,711
  • Senior Grad Fellow: $5,369
  • Grad Fellow: $4,853

Hourly positions shall be compensated at $19.00 per hour.

If the pay rate of any graduate student employee (GSE) assigned to a bargaining unit position exceeds the 2024–2025 minimum for that position on October 1, 2024, and the GSE continues in their assignment for the 2024–25 academic year, they will receive a 2.5% increase starting on October 1, 2024.

PhD students at the University of Chicago typically pay no tuition and they also receive an annual funding amount to support their studies. In 2024–2025, the minimum funding amount is $45,000. This annual funding amount is called “primary funding,” and it can be paid for through a University-sponsored fellowship, teaching, or research. When students’ primary funding is paid for through teaching or research duties, these are union positions.

Information for Supervisors

Graduate student employees who are sick shall not be unreasonably denied the opportunity to take time away from work without loss of compensation.

Graduate student employees shall use their best efforts to schedule vacation or personal time off during regularly scheduled academic breaks. When a graduate student employee is not able to schedule vacation or personal time off during regularly scheduled academic breaks (e.g., say to attend a wedding or due to a family emergency), they are required to coordinate with their supervisor at least two weeks in advance of the requested time off, or as soon as possible if two weeks’ notice is impractical under the circumstances. Supervisors will not unreasonably deny vacation time requests. What is “reasonable” depends upon the situation. Supervisors should consider the nature of the request and the timing related to a student’s obligations.

It is the shared responsibility of the graduate student employee and the supervisor to schedule and attend such meetings.

Graduate student employees may request to have a union steward present whenever they have an employment-related meeting which may lead to discipline. The supervisor must notify the graduate student employee of the meeting’s purpose in advance. In the event no union steward is immediately available, the supervisor shall wait a reasonable period of time given the circumstances but no longer than two business days. The right to union representation does not extend to meetings exclusively concerning a graduate student employee’s academic progress, performance as a student (including course grades, qualifying papers or exams, candidacy exams, language exams, dissertation prospectus defenses, dissertation defenses, or other academic milestones or matters bearing on progress towards the degree), or misconduct unrelated to the performance of job duties.

Union-eligible open positions must be posted on the UChicagoGRAD Gargoyle job board. An open position is any position that is not assigned as part of a student’s primary funding research or teaching position (that is, if a student is being assigned a position because having that position is a requirement for funding—such as a TAship, a Lectureship, or a non-hourly Research Assistantship required by the program—that position will not be posted; all other positions will be).

The University will send a written notice of assignment at least two weeks before the assignment if possible. If the graduate student employee is assigned as a Graduate Student Lecturer, written notice of the assignment shall be provided at least one month before the assignment begins.