The case for voting “yes”

To MIT graduate students,

We understand the GSU vote on whether to accept a comprehensive offer from MIT begins this Monday and will be open through Thursday.

The GSU is holding this vote in accordance with rules solely established by the union. Based on what the GSU has shared publicly, we understand that in order to vote for or against the MIT proposal, you must sign a union membership card and become a member of the union.

This deeply concerns us, as it means that not all eligible bargaining unit members will have an opportunity to vote on MIT’s proposal. We find this particularly troubling since one of the central matters to be considered in the vote is whether each bargaining unit member – current and future – should retain the right to make their own decision on union membership. The GSU has further undermined the integrity of the vote by signaling that it will allow fellows who have signed union cards to vote in the election. But as the National Labor Relations Board has ruled, those fellows are not employees and are not part of the bargaining unit that the GSU represents.

Since the union is the legal representative of all bargaining unit members, and the GSU (not MIT or the NLRB) is overseeing this vote, students who have questions or concerns about voting eligibility should reach out directly to the union.

What a ‘yes’ vote would mean: Swift salary increases and much more

Despite the questions surrounding voting eligibility, we do believe that if you decide to cast your vote, you should review MIT’s proposal carefully and vote YES for the full package of salary increases, rights, and benefits that MIT has offered.

We have added notes to the summary table that the GSU circulated, but in short, here are four key reasons to vote YES:

First, the offer on the table of an immediate 5.25% increase in salaries is very strong and above the recently reported rate of inflation over the last year of 4.9%. Combined with the 8.7% increase last year, this amounts to a 14.4% increase over two years. If the YES votes carry the day and a contract is ratified, this increase will go into effect almost immediately. A NO vote would mean uncertainty as to when a contract would be completed and when pay increases would go into effect.

Second, MIT’s package includes a new 75% dental insurance subsidy; significant cash grants for families, international students, and those most in need; and expanded vacation, sick, and other leave benefits. These, too, could take effect in the near term with enough YES votes and contract ratification.

Third, MIT’s package includes independent arbitration as an appeal option for all claims of discrimination and harassment in the workplace, as well as an option for independent external mediation and the ability to have union representation at any time. Despite GSU statements to the contrary, this is real recourse and a major step forward.

Fourth, the union/open shop issue is not one of security but one of student choice. MIT has maintained that every eligible graduate student – both current and future – should be free to decide whether or not to join and pay significant dues or fees to financially support the UE, the national union. The GSU has said this is an issue of union security, but in our view the union is secure; student employees voted to have it, it has been certified by the NLRB, and it will continue to serve as the exclusive bargaining representative of bargaining unit members—regardless of whether or not there is a union shop provision in the contract. In short, we support the right of grad students to be members of the GSU, but believe that all eligible students should be free to make that choice for themselves.

You can learn more about the reasoning and principles behind our key positionsand get more details on the comprehensive MIT package on the table at

We’d like to avoid any delay in advancing this agreement so that bargaining unit members can start to immediately benefit from the very good outcomes included in MIT’s proposals. Please consider the facts, and vote YES if you’d like us to get straight to work on finalizing a contract and implementing your expanded salaries, rights, and benefits.


Melissa Nobles

Cynthia Barnhart