Majority of MIT graduates sign union authorization cards, GSU authors letter to Reif

GSU hopes for voluntary recognition, to otherwise file for NLRB election

The MIT Graduate Student Union (GSU) submitted a letter to President L. Rafael Reif, “announcing that an overwhelming majority of MIT’s 5,000 graduate employees” “signed union authorization cards” on Dec. 13. 

Signing a union card indicates support “forming a union of graduate workers at MIT” and allows the union to act as the “exclusive representative for purposes of negotiating the terms and conditions” of the graduates’ roles. 

As of Jan. 4, the MIT GSU is still waiting on the MIT administration to “decide whether they will recognize” the union. 

The letter requested President Reif to “voluntarily recognize” the union and a “commitment to establish and protect the working conditions necessary for world class science to flourish” by “addressing long-standing issues of workplace harassment, housing insecurity, and healthcare access.” 

The website writes that graduate student-workers want a “contract that recognizes the value” they bring to MIT. Graduate employees work as “teaching and research assistants, generating revenue for MIT through intellectual property, grants, teaching undergraduates, and collaborations with private enterprise.” The union is fighting for fair work expectations, safe and equitable work environment, financial security, affordable housing, and equal opportunities for international students.

If Reif and MIT voluntarily recognize the union, a “third party will verify majority support for unionization through a card count.” If not, then graduates have the “right to file” for an National Labor Relations Board election to “secure union representation and a start to contract negotiations.” 

If the union wins, the employer is forced to “recognize and bargain with the union.” However, the letter invited the administration “to the bargaining table not as adversaries but as allies,” and implored it to “choose the path of collaboration over the path of conflict.”  

If approved, the MIT GSU will proceed with securing a “union contract” that “covers everything from wages to how disputes will be handled.” 

GSU will also become the largest new private sector union in the U.S. It is currently affiliated with the national union United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America.