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Election FAQs


Those graduate students who are eligible to vote in the election have received an email providing details. Eligible students have been assigned to vote either in person or by mail based on their current residential address. The in-person vote occurs on the Stanford campus on May 31 and June 1. Those voting by mail will receive a ballot in the mail and will need to return it in time for it to be received by June 30. Results are expected in early July, after votes from both the in-person and mail-in election processes are tallied.

How does an NLRB election work?  What is the process?
The election process is conducted and supervised by representatives of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal government agency. An NLRB election provides for graduate students to cast their ballots in secret, exercising their free choice in an environment free from pressure or coercion.

What does it mean when a union asks for voluntary recognition? Why did Stanford decline this request?
As an alternative to a union election, unions may ask an employer to recognize them voluntarily. Because doing so would involve bypassing an election, we informed the SGWU that we did not agree to this request. We believe that a secret-ballot election is a fundamental principle of democratic decision-making and is the most inclusive, fair and secure method by which to determine whether a majority of eligible graduate students wish to be represented by a union. We feel strongly that every graduate student in an appropriate bargaining unit should have the ability, free from undue influence, to make this decision on their own.

How does an election come about? What is the process to request – or petition for – an election?
Once a union has obtained signed authorization cards from at least 30% of employees in an appropriate bargaining unit, it can present the cards to the NLRB and formally request that an election be scheduled. Whether a 30% showing of interest has been demonstrated is an administrative determination made by the NLRB’s Regional Director.

What is the scope of the proposed bargaining unit?
The union and the university have agreed that the graduate student bargaining unit will include and exclude the following graduate students:

Included: All Ph.D., Masters (excluding MBA) and J.D. students (as well as students pursuing degree combinations that include Ph.D., Masters (excluding MBA), and J.D.)  enrolled at Stanford University who provide instructional and/or research services for the University in classifications including Teaching Assistant, Research Assistant, and Course Assistant, and students on fellowship who provide instructional services.

Excluded: All other exempt employees (including faculty or staff enrolled using university tuition benefit); students who are not providing research or instructional services for any class listed in Stanford Explore Courses including all other students on fellowship;  all other students (including but not limited to the following students: MBA, DMA, JSD, MD, and undergraduate students (including undergraduates who are conterminously enrolled in graduate program), students not seeking Stanford degrees, and visiting students); office clericals; managers; guards and supervisors as defined in the Act.

A Notice of Election has been sent by email to graduate students who are eligible to vote in the election. There is a Notice of Election for those voting in person and a separate Notice of Election for those voting by mail.

When is the election?
For eligible graduate students who currently live within the 10 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area, the election will be held May 31 and June 1, with in-person voting on the Stanford campus at the following locations and times:

Engineering Quad:  (10 a.m. – 2 p.m. for students in academic programs assigned to vote at this location)

  • Durand Building: 496 Lomita Mall, Stanford
  • Room: 450 

Tresidder:  (10 a.m. – 2 p.m. for students in academic programs assigned to vote at this location)

  • Tresidder Memorial Union: 459 Lagunita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Room: Cypress

EVGR: (4-8 p.m. for everyone)

  • EVGR-B Building:  735 Campus Drive, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Room: 170

Information about what programs vote at which locations is included in the Notice of Election, which has been sent to eligible voters by email.

I don’t live in the 10 Bay Area counties. Can I vote? How do I do that?
Yes. Eligible voters who have listed their residential address as outside of the 10 Bay Area counties, including those studying abroad, may vote by mail. Ballots will be mailed by the NLRB to those students who are eligible to vote by mail. Mail-in ballots will need to be returned and received by the NLRB by no later than 5 p.m. on June 30, 2023.

When will we know the results of the election?
Results of the election are expected in early July, shortly after the mail-in voting process concludes and votes from both the in-person and mail-in processes are tallied by the NLRB.

Can international students vote?
Yes, international student status does not affect a student’s eligibility to vote. If an international student is eligible to vote and receives a Notice of Election, they may vote. 

Can I still vote if I did not receive a Notice of Election?
If you do not receive a Notice of Election, you can still cast a ballot, but your vote may be challenged by the Board or the parties. Depending on the result of the election, the parties may have to hold a hearing regarding whether to open and count challenged ballots.

Am I obligated to vote even if I am eligible to vote?
No, but the university encourages all eligible voters to vote.  The outcome of the election will be determined by a majority of the votes that are cast.

If I signed an authorization card, do I have to vote in favor of the union?
No, you are able to vote for or against the union even if you signed an authorization card.

Can I vote if I did not sign an authorization card?
Yes, you are able to vote either for or against the union even if you did not sign an authorization card provided you are an eligible voter.

What happens if a majority of those who vote, vote in favor of union representation?
If the majority (over 50%) of those who vote, vote in favor of union representation, the union will be certified as the exclusive representative of everyone in the bargaining unit. Please note that this is the majority of those who vote and not the majority of everyone in the proposed bargaining unit.

If a majority votes in favor of union representation, can individual graduate students decide not to be in the bargaining unit?
No, if elected, the union becomes the exclusive representative of everyone in the bargaining unit.

If graduate students vote for unionization, would I be able to communicate with my faculty advisor regarding terms and conditions of my appointment?
The union would be the exclusive representative of students in the bargaining unit. As such, students typically would need to go through the union, rather than faculty, to deal with any issues pertaining to wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment.