Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Faculty & Staff Resources

Main content start

About the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE)

The SGWU 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.

FAQ 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 or union organizing.

Union Basics

What is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and how does it apply to faculty and staff members in the context of graduate student organizing?

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. 

Can faculty or staff members discuss union organizing with graduate students?

Yes, subject to the legal guidelines below. Faculty and staff members are free to provide graduate students with: (1) facts about the union, union organizing or the labor movement; (2) their individual opinions on the subject; and (3) examples of their own personal experiences with organized labor or some of the issues related to joining or being in a union. Similarly, if you hear inaccurate factual information, you can correct it.

Can faculty or staff members express their opinions about graduate students seeking to form a union on campus?

Yes, subject to the legal guidelines below. Faculty and staff members are welcome to express their own individual opinions about organizing efforts among graduate students and the union involved, and more broadly about union organizing and/or the labor movement.

Can faculty and staff members answer union-related questions from graduate students?

Yes, subject to the legal guidelines below. If graduate students ask questions about factual information, such as current stipends or benefits, feel free to share that information if you have it. If you do not have the information in question, refer the student to someone who does or find the information yourself and relay it to the student.

Can faculty and staff members initiate a conversation with graduate students about union organizing?

Yes, subject to the legal guidelines below. Under the law, you have the right to do so, although how and where you have this dialogue is important. You may initiate a conversation about union organizing by telling an individual graduate student that you would like to discuss the issue. If the graduate student is unwilling or seems uncomfortable with having the conversation, DO NOT continue. If the graduate student is open to having the conversation, you may then share your personal views. You should only initiate such conversations with an individual graduate student in public areas. Do not initiate these conversations in faculty offices, as that setting could be deemed coercive or intimidating. If a graduate student comes to your office and asks to speak to you about unionization, you may engage subject to the guidelines above. You should not post your opinions about union organizing on your office door or in your faculty office. You should not send letters or emails to communicate your views to graduate students regarding the pros and cons of union representation.

Are there other guidelines that faculty and staff need to follow under the NLRA?

Yes, there are important legal guidelines for faculty and staff members to follow when discussing the topic of union representation with graduate students.

  1. Do not threaten: Do not tell or suggest to a graduate student that forming a union – or conversely, not forming a union – will result in negative treatment or have certain consequences for that graduate student or for graduate students as a group. 
  2. Do not interrogate: Do not ask questions about where an individual graduate student stands on unionizing or whether they are involved in organizing efforts. If a graduate student voluntarily shares that information, you may listen, but you may not ask questions about it.
  3. Do not coerce: Do not demand that graduate students share their personal opinions about unionizing. If a graduate student voluntarily expresses their personal views or other information, you may listen and in exchange share your personal views – in a non-threatening, non-coercive manner.
  4. Do not promise: Do not promise a graduate student or a group of graduate students anything of value as incentive to join – or not join – a union. While a union representative can make such promises, faculty are prohibited from promising anything on behalf of the university or the union.
  5. Do not speak for the university: Make it clear that you are expressing your own personal views and that you are not speaking on behalf of the university.
  6. Do not surveil: Graduate student activities such as union organizing meetings or group discussions about organizing are protected by law. Do not engage in surveillance of these activities or even the appearance of doing so.

What is an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge?

An unfair labor practice charge, commonly referred to as a ULP, is an allegation that an employer or union has acted in violation of the NLRA.

I still have questions.

If you have a specific issue or question, please contact

Additional questions and answers about collective bargaining and the negotiations process are available on the Student Resources page.