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Union FAQs

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What is 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.

Who is represented by the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America Local 1043, Stanford Graduate Workers Union (UE Local 1043-SGWU)?

The UE Local 1043-SGWU represents 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.

The following populations are 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.

What is a union?

A labor union is an organization that is the exclusive representative of a group of employees that negotiates with an employer on employment matters such as wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Does Stanford have any existing unions?

Stanford is proud of our collaborative working relationship with SEIU Higher Education Workers Local 2007 and the Stanford Deputy Sheriffs’ Association (SDSA).

Are graduate students eligible to join a union?

Yes. In a 2016 decision involving Columbia University, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held that graduate student assistants who perform various teaching and research tasks in partial fulfillment of their graduate programs are “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This ruling gave graduate student assistants, such as teaching assistants and research assistants, the right to unionize and to bargain collectively.

What is the NLRB and what is its role in forming a union?

The NLRB is an independent federal agency created to enforce the NLRA.

What is the process to form a union/unionize?

A union seeking to represent a group of employees first needs to obtain “authorization cards” from at least 30% of people they want to represent. Once a union has a sufficient percentage of signed authorization cards, it can present the cards to the NLRB and request an election. A secret ballot election gives each employee in the bargaining unit the opportunity to vote. If results show a majority of the voters (50% + 1) are in favor of the union, the NLRB will certify the union.

What are union authorization cards?

Authorization cards are written declarations signed by members of a potential bargaining unit stating that they authorize a particular union to be their exclusive representative for the purposes of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment with their employer. Unions collect authorization cards to demonstrate that there is a substantial interest in forming a union.

Does being in a union cost graduate students money?

Yes, unions charge dues and/or fees. The amount of union dues and/or fees collected from employees represented by unions is set by the union. Unions typically seek to have employers deduct dues and/or fees directly from employees’ pay. According to the SGWU website, UE’s present minimum dues are 1.44% of wages.

Are all graduate students obligated to join a union?

If a majority of eligible voters affirmatively vote for union representation, all graduate students included in the bargaining unit are represented by the union and subject to the terms and conditions negotiated in a collective bargaining agreement – regardless of whether an individual graduate student voted for unionization or not. The union becomes the “exclusive representative” of everyone in the bargaining unit for wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment.

Can a graduate student refuse to become a union member even though they are part of the bargaining unit?

Yes, a person may decide not to become a member of the union, but unions usually require “non-members” to pay a fee to the union. The fee is a charge to cover the union’s costs of representation. The fee can be the same as membership dues, although sometimes it is less. However, even if an individual does not become a member, they are still subject to the terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement.