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Following a 2016 decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), graduate student assistants who perform various teaching and research tasks in partial fulfillment of their graduate programs are considered “employees” under the NLRA, giving them the right to join or form a union and bargain collectively.

In July 2023, the Stanford Graduate Workers Union decided to affiliate with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). UE is a national union representing workers in a variety of manufacturing, public sector and private service-sector jobs. UE is an independent union, meaning it is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO federation of unions.

Guidance for Faculty and Staff

Unionization and union negotiations are highly regulated. As a result, it is important for faculty and staff to familiarize themselves with the legal restrictions that apply to them when speaking with graduate students about the union and about negotiations.

Below are important legal guidelines for faculty and staff members to follow when discussing the topic of the union with graduate workers.

  1. Do not threaten: Do not tell or suggest to a graduate worker that supporting the union or becoming a member of the union – or conversely, not becoming a member – will result in negative treatment or have certain consequences for that graduate worker or for graduate workers as a group.
  2. Do not interrogate: Do not ask questions about what an individual graduate worker thinks about the union or if they are involved in the union. If a graduate worker voluntarily shares that information, you may listen, but you may not ask questions about it.
  3. Do not promise: Do not promise a graduate worker or a group of graduate workers anything of value as incentive to become a union member or not to participate in union job actions. While a union representative can make such promises, faculty are prohibited from promising anything on behalf of the university or the union.
  4. Do not surveil: Union activities such as union meetings are protected by law. Do not engage in surveillance of these activities or even the appearance of doing so.


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