Background FAQ

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Does MIT have a graduate student union?

Yes. It’s called the MIT GSU-UE (MIT Graduate Student Union-United Electrical Workers), and it is a local union (Local 256) affiliated with a national union called the United Electrical, Radio, & Machine Workers of America (UE).

When was a graduate student union elected at MIT?

On April 6, 2022, Chancellor Melissa Nobles and Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz announced the results of the April 4-5 graduate student unionization election; congratulated current and past MIT GSU members on their four years of dedicated work that culminated in the union’s victory; and committed to bargain in good faith with the union over the terms and conditions of employment for bargaining unit members. Later in April 2022, the union was officially certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

What does it mean that MIT now has a graduate student union?

MIT is required to recognize the union as the exclusive bargaining representative of all graduate students when they are in the certified unit (see below), i.e. when they hold a Teaching Assistant, Research Assistant or Instructor-G appointment. This means, among other things, that the Institute cannot work with any other body or organization, including the MIT Graduate Student Council, on matters affecting wages, hours, or working conditions for those in the certified unit, nor can MIT negotiate directly with any individual member of the unit on any matter affecting wages, hours, or working conditions, unless otherwise authorized by a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MIT and the union.

MIT and the union also must meet their obligations to negotiate in good faith for that initial CBA. Under the law, this means meeting at reasonable times and places with the intent of reaching an agreement on wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment. However, neither side is obligated to agree to a particular proposal or provision from the other side.

Who is included in the bargaining unit?

The bargaining unit certified by the NLRB is: Graduate students enrolled in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) degree programs who are employed to provide instructional or research services, including research assistants, teaching assistants, and instructor G’s, but excluding undergraduate students; graduate student resident advisors; graduate fellows who are not also employed as either research assistants or teaching assistants; hourly graders who are not also employed as either research assistants or teaching assistants; graduate students not seeking MIT degrees, including visiting students; office clericals, managers, guards, and supervisors as defined in the Act.

Are students in the bargaining unit if their only MIT funding is a fellowship award?

No. In October 2022, the MIT GSU filed a petition with the NLRB to add these graduate student fellows to the current bargaining unit (these are fellowship students who do not also have partial research assistant, teaching assistant, or Instructor G appointments). MIT asked the NLRB to decide this issue because MIT believes that these graduate student fellows are students only – not employees – and therefore are not eligible to be included in the unit. The NLRB held a hearing and received post-hearing briefs from both MIT and the MIT GSU on this matter last fall, and on March 13, 2023, the NLRB ruled in MIT’s favor, stating “The fact that fellows must meet no employment responsibilities or service requirements to receive or maintain their fellowship awards supports a finding of non-employee status.” The petition was therefore dismissed. On April 4, 2023, the GSU announced its intention to seek an appeal of the regional director’s decision by the full Board of the NLRB in Washington, D.C. Before any appeal process can officially begin, the Board first has to decide whether or not they will accept the GSU’s case for further review.