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Be Informed

How does graduate student unionization impact you?

Statement on Graduate Student Unionization

Over the years, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken inconsistent positions as to whether graduate students are “employees” under federal labor law. Most recently, in 2016, the NLRB ruled that graduate students at private universities can meet the definition of employees of the institutions they attend.

By way of a secret-ballot election held on Jan. 10 and 11, 2023, a majority of eligible graduate students voted in favor of representation by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). This means that, subject to limited exceptions, graduate assistants, teaching assistants, graduate research assistants and graduate fellows are now represented by the union when they are enrolled in Northwestern degree programs and providing instructional or research services for the University. Negotiations between the University and union representatives began on June 5, 2023 and will continue until a collective bargaining agreement is finalized.

Northwestern deeply values the contributions that graduate students make to its research and teaching missions, and we are proud to provide firsthand experiences that serve as excellent preparation for a range of career outcomes. The University remains steadfast in its commitment to support, mentor and prepare graduate students for future success.

As part of this commitment, Northwestern has been and remains dedicated to cultivating its relationship with graduate students, keeping the lines of communication open and working collaboratively on issues important to students and the University. Because of this commitment, the University attracts the best graduate students in the world and prepares them to be scholars and thought leaders of the future.

We encourage all graduate students to learn as much as they can about what it means to be in a union. Likewise, we encourage graduate faculty members to educate themselves on this topic. Please use this site as a key resource to stay informed and submit questions here.

Union basics

Information for students and faculty about graduate student unionization

What is a union?

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