Press Release

Brown University Graduate Employees Cast Historic Vote to Join American Federation of Teachers

For Release:


Oriana Korin

PROVIDENCE—In an historic election, Brown University graduate employees have voted to unionize, with 60 percent voting yes, making them the second set of university graduate employees in a week that has joined the American Federation of Teachers.  

In response to the vote, Kaitlyn Quaranta, a graduate assistant in French Studies said: "Hundreds of graduate workers stood up this week and sent a clear message that our labor for the university should not be taken for granted. Winning this election is about more than just improving working conditions for grads at Brown. In voting to unionize, we stood up for labor rights during an incredibly anti-labor administration."

Marley-Vincent Lindsey, a graduate assistant in the Department of History said: "This victory is a message to workers in and beyond universities: during an era of peak hostility to unions, power still resides with us. For two and a half years, hundreds of graduate workers spoke to our colleagues about what they loved about their departments, what they wanted to change, and how that change might happen. Today, we have the power to make changes for a better university, one that protects the most precarious among us and also advances the needs of its workers." 

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said: “Graduate employees at private institutions—Ivy League or otherwise—just like their peers in public universities across the country, deserve the right to organize to have a real say over their wages, conditions, and work expectations. That voice will hugely help Brown students as well as graduate employees, who have stood up to have a say over their work lives. Their decision to unionize validates their fight to win a meaningful seat at the bargaining table, impacting the lives of graduate employees from all walks of life. This win means a voice for parents who are graduate employees and in need of better childcare, and a voice for international graduate employees facing complicated immigration issues. Just as important, this voice at the bargaining table ensures a better grievance process for victims of sexual harassment—a process currently under attack by the Betsy DeVos Education Department.

“With this election, Brown University made a historic correction of their 2002 stance to strip graduate students of their collective bargaining rights. And Brown graduate employees recognized that when you stand up and exercise your voice with others, you accomplish far more together than you could alone.

“The AFT will continue to have Stand Up for Graduate Student Employee’s (SUGSE) back as it negotiates over the teaching and learning conditions that affect everyone at Brown, and are hopeful this is the first step in forging a partnership with the university that respects every grad employee working on campus.”

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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.