Key Facts About Unionization

You Are Bound by the Election Results

All eligible graduate students are bound by the election, whether or not you vote. If the union wins, you cannot opt out of any of the terms in the union contract. It is essential that you vote to ensure that you have a say in the outcome of the election. 

You Lose Individuality

One union would represent all graduate and professional students in all graduate groups in all included Schools and programs, regardless of the many differences. You would lose the right to advocate for your own interests regarding any item covered by the union contract. 

You Lose Flexibility

Union contracts impose strict rules that prevent flexibility. A union contract might limit how many hours you can do research or teach, or it might require that lab, teaching, and grading assignments be based only on seniority. You may also be required to strike if the union calls a strike, even if you want to keep doing your research. NYU graduate students lost more than a semester of funding and teaching to a strike. 

You Lose Money ...

You pay the union whether or not you support it or vote for it - and whether or not it achieves any results. At Temple, for example, graduate students pay 1.65% out of every stipend check; after 17 years, the union has gotten them current annual stipends far below the ones that already exist at Penn. 

... Yet Are Guaranteed Nothing

The union cannot guarantee any results of bargaining. The AFT has represented graduate students at Temple since 2002, and the maximum stipend there is now $18,700, less than in any graduate program at Penn. Without a union, Penn stipends for graduate students are significantly higher than the stipends the AFT has negotiated for graduate students at other schools. The minimum stipend for funded PhD candidates at Penn has increased nearly 60% between 2005-2017, with annual increases averaging 3.7%. In the most recent academic year, stipends increased 3.2% with no union at Penn and 2.25% with a union at Temple. 

You Weaken Collaborative Relationships

A union creates an adversarial relationship with the university and with the professors who are your mentors and future colleagues. At NYU, the union filed over 30 grievances in a four-year period challenging professors' academic decisions about teaching assignments. Grievances can take months to resolve. Working closely with GAPSA and other student leaders, Penn has introduced numerous advancements to graduate student life, which you can learn more about at: Valuing Graduate Students Website.