WASHINGTON—Graduate employees at Brown University have overwhelmingly voted to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, as part of their fight to win respect, fairness and a voice at work.
A majority of members of Brown University SUGSE (Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees) voted in an online ballot this week to join with AFT, following a four-month research process to decide on options for national union affiliation.
Brown joins other private college grads organizing with the AFT at Cornell, Northwestern, Princeton, the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania.
Caroline Kory, a fourth-year doctoral student in religious studies, said: “I think it is especially important during this political moment when our values and labor are under attack by an anti-education and anti-worker presidential administration that graduate students stand strong together. A democratic labor union that fights for graduate students is the best way to win meaningful shared governance on campus, and a more just, equitable workplace.”
Mark Ho, a fifth-year doctoral student in cognitive, linguistic, and psychological sciences said: “As a union that already represents hundreds of thousands of academic workers like graduate students and faculty, AFT understands the issues we face as student-employees in a university setting. I’m excited to have them help us build a stronger graduate student community!”
Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals President Frank Flynn said: “Brown University is an esteemed Rhode Island institution, and we are excited that its graduate employees have chosen AFT to represent them in their quest to secure a voice in the workplace and improved economic opportunity.”
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said: “I am proud of the Brown grads who are standing up to win a voice on the job. Just like their faculty colleagues, Brown grads perform the vital intellectual labor—teaching undergraduates, conducting research for professors and advisers, grading papers—that keeps the university running. Grads are rising around the country because they want to gain a seat at the table and be recognized for the work they do every day.”
Last year, the National Labor Relations Board formally classified private colleges’ graduate teaching and research assistants as workers. The AFT, the largest U.S. higher education union, already represents more than 25,000 grad employee members across 23 institutions in nine states.