MIT urges the GSU to re-engage at the bargaining table

Dear colleagues,

We are disappointed to report that Friday’s negotiating session with the MIT Graduate Student Union (GSU) ended with the GSU stating that it would not move forward on any other items until MIT concedes on a union shop provision — which would require all bargaining unit members to join the union and pay dues or pay agency fees.

This move comes as the GSU is seeking to ramp up pressure on MIT with a second informational picket outside Lobby 7 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. tomorrow, coinciding with the inauguration of President Sally Kornbluth.

The GSU is taking these actions despite MIT’s highly competitive offer of this past week, including:

  • A 4.5% salary increase during the first year of the new contract, followed by 3.5% and 3% during the next two years of the contract. This would result in a compounded 11.4% increase over the term of the agreement, and a four-year increase of 21.1%, including last year’s 8.7% gain.
  • A new vision insurance benefit, and coverage of 50% of individual dental insurance premiums.
  • A $1,200 payment to international graduate students to cover costs associated with their visas.
  • Significant expansions of childbirth and parental leave, as well as other family and medical leaves.
  • A new three-day immigration leave benefit for international graduate students who are required to attend certain hearings or appointments relating to their visa status.
  • Substantial moves on discrimination and harassment claims: For non-Title IX claims, MIT offered the option of external arbitration as an appeal option. For Title IX claims, MIT offered the opportunity to pursue mandatory third-party mediation after completion of MIT’s internal processes.

In our 21 bargaining sessions since September, we have reached agreement on numerous economic and non-economic issues, meeting many of the GSU’s stated top priorities. Indeed, the GSU’s own communications regularly tout the fact the MIT has compromised on many issues in an effort to reach agreement.

But at this point, with just one scheduled day of negotiations remaining, on May 4, we remain far apart on salaries, among other economic issues. While our graduate student salaries already rank second highest in the nation, the GSU is still demanding a 16% increase in the first year of a contract. This is far above what we have communicated is sustainable and equitable for our community, both today and into the future.

Additionally, the GSU’s insistence on a union shop would require all RAs, TAs, and Instructor Gs to pay dues or agency fees averaging about $670 per year. In contrast, MIT has sought to protect student choice with an open shop — as is found at peer institutions such as Harvard and Columbia — maintaining that graduate students should not be required, as a condition of receiving an MIT degree, to pay thousands of dollars to the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

Unfortunately, the GSU’s insistence on a union shop, and its threat to stop all discussion on other items until MIT yields on this issue, is impeding progress for our graduate students on all other outstanding matters. MIT remains committed to negotiating in good faith. And importantly, we remain committed to reaching the GSU’s stated goal of arriving at an agreement in May. We stand ready to continue productive negotiations, and strongly encourage the GSU to do the same.

As always, please visit for complete updates on the status of the negotiations, as well as information on our positions on key issues. We will keep you apprised of further developments.


Melissa Nobles

Cynthia Barnhart