Most graduate students have questions about unionization. (You aren't the only one!) Here we've compiled some of the frequently-asked questions that we've heard, and our answers to address them.

If you have a question that isn't listed here, please let us know through our Feedback Form and we'll add it asap!


Are grad employee unions successful?

The data say HECK YES! The unionized grad workers at other campuses, including UMass Amherst, Boston, and Lowell, have MUCH higher pay and MUCH lower fees than UMassD grad workers.

Don't rely on rumors; see the graph, calculations, and all raw data on our WHY page!

In addition, the MIT grad employee union has compiled specific examples of bargaining contracts won by graduate unions across the country. Check it out! https://mitgsu.org/wins

When we unionize, could my paycheck decrease?

It shouldn't! Any proposed contract that we negotiate with the university must be ratified by a vote of our members. It is highly unlikely that we would vote to lower our pay.

In addition, we have included the following clause in our draft Bylaws to prevent majority rule on this important matter: "No contract condition shall decrease any member’s pay or benefits without written consent from that member. If such a contract condition applies to multiple members, written consent must be provided by every affected member."

Who can join the union?

If you are a current UMassD graduate student getting paid through the university, you are eligible to join the union! For details, see the official bargaining unit definition.

Note that if you work for Dining Services or if you are a post-doc, you are already unionized (and therefore aren't eligible to join our union).

Can international students join the union?

Yes! International student workers have the same rights as US citizens to organize and support unionization efforts. It is illegal for any employer to punish workers for participating in workplace organizing. Additionally, there are no effects on visa or immigration status due to union participation or membership. International grad workers have been participating in and leading graduate union organizing for over 50 years now, and no cases of any complication arising from their status as an international student and union organizer or member has been brought forward.

Further, the union is built on broad, public, majority support. This gives us significant collective power, and protection in numbers. We will not stand for any grad worker at UMassD facing retaliation for building a union with their co-workers.

For detailed info, see the "International Students" section of Brown University's Graduate Labor Organization FAQ webpage.

I don't want to risk my student status. Will the university be angry with me if I join the union?

If you are afraid of punishment from the administration, you are already being bullied! A union specifically protects students who are vulnerable to intimidation and threats due to massive imbalances of power. If you are concerned that once you join the union suddenly a TAship won't be available for you next semester, or your advisor has mysteriously run out of funding for you, or your visa is somehow delayed... you DEFINITELY need a union to protect your rights! This is exactly what unions are for.

When I signed an auth card last Fall, did I join the union?

No. When you signed the card, you were merely indicating your INTEREST in forming a union. You were:

We also hope that you will officially join our union after we are certified by Massachusetts!

How much will it cost to be a union member? What will the union dues be?

We don't know the exact amount yet, but we estimate that each member will pay $8.00 - $60.00 per month (depending on your income). Students with low income get a discount on their AFT dues! If you choose to pay dues, they will be automatically deducted from your paycheck.

We're working on calculating the exact numbers for typical grad worker scenarios like a TA, an RA, and an hourly employee. Stay tuned!

Also, remember that grad worker union members typically enjoy benefits that far outweigh the price of their dues! For example, UMass Lowell's health insurance is $2,500 cheaper than ours (only $380 per year!), UMass Amherst's health insurance is only $94 per year, and URI's is free. Your money is very well invested, with orders of magnitude dividends!

Will I have to pay union dues?

No. Dues are voluntary, not mandatory; you don't have to pay any dues to be protected by the union. We note that the strongest unions are well-funded and can purchase resources to advocate most effectively, so please consider paying the dues to strengthen our voice!

If the university pays us more, won't they have to reduce the number of jobs available to us?

This is a difficult question. Hypothetically, if the university pays us twice what we are currently paid, they might have to fire half of us. However, graduate employees are necessary for the university to function -- teach classes and labs, grade exams, fulfill grant requirements, etc. Cutting graduate student employment isn't a sustainable option; we're already working more than our contract hours!

Other universities (including UMass Amherst, UMass Lowell, UMass Boston, and UMass Med) are sustainably able to pay their grad employees more than we are paid (see our WHY page). UMass Dartmouth grad students are asking for the same.

Why do so many people dislike unions? How is this union different?

Many Americans very much dislike unions. Just Google "why don't people like unions" and you will read the horror stories! In our research, traditional unions may suffer from abuse and misuse of power, lack of accountability and transparency, an "us-versus-them" and a zero-sum mentality, and misprioritizing member benefits above societal benefits. In short, traditional unions can be short-sighted and narrow-minded.

This is not how we wish to operate, especially after the global pandemic showed us the infinite value of community and of all people. Through this lens, there are no adversaries. In the bigger picture, we are all on the same side.

To address the issues that traditional unions can have, our modernized union will be adding rules into our Constitution to adhere to this modernized union mentality. Stay tuned.

Will I have to go on strike, even if I don't want to?

Nope! Massachusetts is a No-Strike state, so we cannot strike. We must find diplomatic and democratic win-win solutions with the university.

Is unionization popular nowadays?

Yes! In fact, there is a huge movement for unionization happening nation-wide right now. From the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions newsletter, these unionization efforts have happened just recently:

Will the union help student employees with department/faculty/admin/staff racism, discrimination, harassment, exploitation, coercion, bribery, bullying, etc.?

YES. One of the main functions of a union is submitting formal grievances against employers for such things, particularly since these matters are extremely serious (and possibly illegal).

UMass Dartmouth does not have any effective method of resolving graduate student issues. Complain to the Grad Studies Office, who pays your? Talk to university HR, who is incentivized to reduce complaint filings? Contact the Diversity Council, which was "being formed" in April 2020 but still doesn't exist? Meet with the GSS, who isn't equipped, enabled, or authorized to handle such heavy topics? None of these options are feasible.

Unions protect their members and advocate on their behalf through the power of their pooled membership strength, considerable resources, and professional acumen. This is a union's main function!

Will the union help with graduate student issues like professional networking, conferences, improved quality of education, curricula, etc.?

No; the union only covers graduate student employee issues like employment contracts, benefits, employer conflicts, etc. The Graduate Student Senate (GSS) addresses graduate student issues.

If you have more questions, we want to hear them! Please submit any questions through our Feedback Form, and we will respond to you asap.