Press Release

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

For Release: 

Friday, November 9, 2018


Oriana Korin

WASHINGTON—Georgetown University graduate employees have voted decisively for a union, with more than 83 percent voting yes. Today, they’ll deliver their intent to bargain with the university administration.  

Graduate employees work with students every day, instructing classes and helping meet their academic needs to create a true community of learning on campus. A voice on the job will help them do that job better and push for improvements to the classes they teach and the research they conduct.

In response to the vote, Hailey Huget, a seventh-year doctoral candidate in philosophy, said: “When we started organizing GAGE [the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees] several years ago, the idea of one day winning a union election seemed unlikely, given the current political climate’s hostility toward unions. Here’s how we did it: We talked to our peers, we listened to them, and we built a union that put their needs first. We engaged community allies. All of us worked together to put pressure on Georgetown to live up to its values and recognize the dignity of our labor.

“Today’s victory is a testament to the strength and resilience of the graduate worker community we built here at Georgetown. I am overwhelmed with pride and gratitude for the countless hours that grads put into building this union, for the tireless work of our AFT organizers, and for the unyielding support of community allies. 

“I am so excited to see what comes next for GAGE. Let’s keep making history and showing private universities around the country that grad labor is real labor, and that our voices won't be silenced.”

Catie Sevigny, a fourth-year doctoral candidate in tumor biology, said: “Two years ago, I barely knew people in other departments on the medical campus. This organizing campaign helped bring together workers across every department on campus to make sure their voices were heard, on issues like healthcare, dental and vision insurance, parental leave, working conditions and more. Those voices spoke loud and clear today, and they voted for a union.

“We are teaching assistants, teaching associates, research assistants and graduate student assistants, and most importantly, we are workers. Now, we come together to bargain for a fair contract. I’m proud to be a part of GAGE and can’t wait to see how we can keep making positive changes on campus.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said: “With their historic vote, Georgetown graduate employees recognized that when you stand up and exercise your voice with others, you accomplish far more together than you could alone. While other universities have been part of a well-funded, coordinated legal attack to deny all grad workers a voice on the job, Georgetown chose a different path: for graduate workers to have a voice. It did so because the administration understood its graduate workers were resolute in their willingness to blaze a trail for graduate workers across the nation.

“With 83 percent support, the grads made clear that they want a union. Now, as they deliver their demand to bargain, the work of making the university a great place to learn and work really begins. We want to thank Georgetown University for joining us in a groundbreaking agreement, creating a process to ascertain the will of its graduate workers, and honoring its word to remain neutral. Having a university partner in this vote was critical, and it sends a message to other university employers around the country that working with their grads is not only possible, it’s beneficial to every student and teacher on campus.

“The AFT will continue to have GAGE’s back as it negotiates over the teaching and learning conditions that affect everyone at Georgetown. We are hopeful this is the first step in forging a partnership with the university that respects graduate employees.”

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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.