May 4 bargaining update

Bargaining teams from MIT and the GSU met for the 22nd time on Thursday, May 4. MIT’s bargaining team increased its first-year salary offer, moving from 4.5% to 5.25%. MIT’s offer, which amounts to a 12.2% salary increase over three years, and a four-year increase of 22% when factoring in last year’s 8.7% increase, is comprehensive. When combined with the Institute’s other compensation and benefit proposals summarized below, and in more detail here, MIT’s proposals meet many of the GSU’s top priorities.

We understand the GSU now intends to put MIT’s current offer up for a vote and will be urging graduate students to reject it. MIT encourages students to learn about the issues and vote in favor of the Institute’s proposal so that we can move without further delay to implement pay increases, expanded grants, and other rights and benefits for our graduate students.

Key developments from May 4 bargaining session

In the last scheduled bargaining session, the GSU reduced their compensation proposal from 16% to 15.5% in the first year of the contract (in fact, their proposed increases stretch from 15.5% to 20.1% due to different proposed raises for masters and doctoral students). The union’s wage demands still remain far above what MIT has previously communicated is sustainable, and the increases would undermine our capacity to meet the needs of the Institute’s entire community, both today and tomorrow.

The GSU restated their refusal to meaningfully negotiate until MIT concedes on “union shop.” Rather than prioritize salary increases for all bargaining unit members, the GSU is instead blocking a contract over its insistence that all RAs, TAs, and Instructor Gs be required to join the union/pay dues or pay agency fees.

The GSU’s call for a union shop would require every bargaining unit member to pay approximately $700 per year or lose their appointment. In contrast, MIT has sought to protect student choice with an open shop, maintaining that graduate students should not, as a condition of earning an MIT degree, be forced to pay thousands of dollars over the course of their studies to the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. In addition, more than 100,000 graduate students nationwide – at institutions ranging from Harvard and Columbia to a wider range of public universities – are members of open shop unions. Many of MIT’s graduate students have written to Institute leaders to say they do not share the GSU’s position and believe they should be able to choose whether or not to join the union.

MIT also put a substantive new proposal on the table relative to additional external recourse options for discrimination and harassment claims. Specifically, the Institute is offering 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. MIT’s position meets many of the union’s demands on this important topic.

While the teams remain far apart on economics and a union vs. open shop arrangement, they continued to make important progress, finalizing tentative agreements on four non-economic articles: workload, international employee rights, union rights, and professional rights and responsibilities. These tentative agreements add to those already reached on numerous terms related to both economic and non-economic issues.

A call to vote “yes” and enact progress

Prior to participating in the GSU’s up or down vote on the Institute’s proposals, MIT encourages all bargaining unit members to be informed about the provisions of the competitive package MIT has put forward. Here are several highlights:

  • Salaries: MIT is offering a 5.25% salary raise in the first year of a new contract followed by a 3.5% and 3% respective raises in the second and third years. This would result in a compounded 12.2% increase over the term of the agreement, and a four-year increase of 22%, including last year’s 8.7% increase. These are fair and financially sustainable levels for graduate students whose salaries are already second highest in the nation.
  • Benefits: MIT will pay 75% of the cost of individual dental insurance premiums as well as for a new vision insurance benefit. And MIT’s package includes added vacation time and sick time, as well as expanded paid and unpaid leaves of absence.
  • Support for international students: MIT will make a $1,200 payment to each international student to cover costs associated with their visas as well as provide a new three-day immigration leave benefit for students who are required to attend certain hearings or appointments relating to their visa status.
  • Support for graduate students with children: MIT will provide an annual need-based family supplement of up to $10,000 for graduate students with dependent children. This is on top of MIT’s existing annual $6,500 to $8,500 need-blind family grant program.