Frequently Asked Questions

What if my advisor/faculty retaliates, e.g. I’m not awarded grants, etc?

Our right to form a union is legally protected, and we are affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has legal resources and knowledge to ensure that right is upheld. Having a union can benefit your relationship with your advisor/faculty because you don’t have to negotiate one-on-one. Complaints can be addressed through the union.

Why should I care? I already make enough money and I’m worried with a union my stipend would go down.

Graduate workers wouldn’t vote in favor of a contract that lowers our wages. Everybody votes on the contract and there are a large number of STEM graduate students at SU who wouldn’t vote to decrease their stipends. A union also provides security should administration try to make changes we oppose.

Would I lose money because I’d be forced to pay dues?

The stipend increases that graduate student unions win surpass what they pay in dues. Our dues would be 1-2% of our stipend, part of which goes toward helping our local function. For instance, dues could go toward a strike fund, an organizing drive, or an emergency graduate student assistance fund.

What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is a process, recognized and protected by federal law, that equalizes the power relationship between employees and their employer. Under collective bargaining, we elect representatives to negotiate on equal footing with the university and put the terms of our employment into a legally binding contract. Through collective bargaining, graduate employee unions have successfully negotiated improvements in wages, hours, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment. The GSO does not have the power to collectively bargain contracts. Without collective bargaining, the university has unilateral power to change our working conditions. For example, the university currently decides unilaterally whether or not we are eligible for employee health insurance, whether our stipends keep up with increasing costs of living in Syracuse, or if those stipends make up for any losses incurred due to changes in tuition remission taxation.

Would I be at risk for joining or supporting a union as an international student or non-U.S. citizen?

As an international student you are afforded all of the protections U.S. citizens have when it comes to organizing and unionizing. International graduate student workers have played a central role in organizing and running unions at more than 60 university campuses across the US. Your visa will not be jeopardized by supporting a union. As a union member, you’ll also be part of an organization that will stand with you if you face any issues at the University.

How is a union different than the GSO (or my department’s Registered Student Organization)?

As a union the university has to recognize us as a collective bargaining unit. This gives us the power to collectively negotiate our contracts with Syracuse instead of being isolated workers at the whims of the unilateral decision-making power of administration, as is currently the case. We would also have structure and organization as a group of graduate workers to discuss, negotiate, and make democratic decisions about issues that affect us.