Grad Union Victories

Across the country, graduate student unions have won increased compensation, health insurance coverage, childcare coverage, family/sick leave, and more. Find some examples of contract wins at other institutions below. A directory of contracts in full can be found here. More detailed summaries by issue can be found here.

  1. Compensation
  2. Fees/Tuition
  3. Health Insurance
  4. Childcare
  5. Vacation
  6. Family/Medical/Sick Leave
  7. Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Protection
  8. Work Expectations
  9. International Students


Temple University

In the spring of 2023, Temple grad workers won a 23% raise with an annual 4% raise for the duration of the contract.

University of California

Academic student employees negotiated a new contract that will raise minimum pay from about $23,250 to about $34,000.

Brown University

Grad students negotiated an increased stipend of $42,411.03 per year, a nearly 13% hike from the previous year’s stipend of $35,728,30.

U Washington

Across the board annual wage increase for graduate workers (83% increase since 2004).

Summer wages supplemented by 20%.


Guaranteed minimum salary and annual 2% raise.


Academic year appointment minimum stipend raised from $29k to $32.5k.

Fiscal year appointment minimum stipend raised to $35.5k.

Subsequent 2% annual raise.


Annual 2.5% raise.

Graduate assistant who teach a course as an “instructor of record” receive an additional $1,000 per course.


U Iowa

Graduate employees with 25%+ appointment receive 100% tuition scholarship and 25% fees scholarship.

U Washington

Graduate assistant tuition/fee waiver coverage went from 92% to 96% (~$1,358 out of pocket savings).

U Rhode Island

Parking fee waived for 20+ hr appointment.

U California

$300 waiver of campus fees and a $100 lump sum payment.

Health Insurance


Full-time PhD students receive a fully funded individual health insurance plan for years 1-5.

U Michigan

University employees in bargaining unit and their dependents eligible for zero-premium coverage.

Zero-premium dental exams and cleanings, 2x a year.

Graduate student insurance will cover up to 15 gender-affirmation speech language therapy sessions per calendar year, with the student paying a $25 co-pay.

U Iowa

Employer covers 90% of monthly premium cost.

70% coverage for dependents.

Domestic partners eligible for coverage.

Employer provides 85% coverage for dental care, 70% for dependents.

U California

Graduate workers with 25%+ appointment eligible for 100% premium remission.


U Washington

Established fund to provide graduate workers up to $5,000/year to cover childcare costs. 

Negotiated paid leave for childcare emergencies.


PhD student workers eligible for care through at subsidized rate of $5/hr for 10 days/year.


Provides a contribution of $600 for childcare for each eligible dependent



11.5 official holidays, plus week of winter recess. 2-3 personal days and 2 weeks paid vacation.

U Washington

Established 4 weeks paid vacation per 12-month appointment for all 50% appointment graduate workers.

Family/Medical/Sick Leave


Graduate students are eligible to receive a one-time, $1,200 grant to support a medical leave.


Graduate student workers receive twelve weeks of unpaid leave for personal medical leave; the birth or adoption of a child; or to care for a sick spouse, child, or parent.

U Rhode Island

8 days paid sick leave.

6 weeks paid parental leave, unpaid leave of absence for up to 6 months.

4 days paid bereavement.

Military leave of absence up to 6 months after date of discharge.

U Iowa

18 paid sick days for fiscal year appointment, 13.5 paid sick days for academic year appointment.

Employees can use sick leave (up to 5 days) to care for family members.

Employees can use sick days (up to 3 days) for bereavement.

Michigan State

3 days of bereavement leave. 8 weeks of adoption/parental leave. 2 weeks for jury duty.

“During a medical leave, the employing unit shall adjust (reduce, waive or reschedule) the Employee’s duties as those duties and his/her physical circumstances reasonably dictate.  If total absence from duties becomes necessary and the Employee is still enrolled, the employing unit shall maintain the stipend of the appointment provided for a period of two (2) months or to the end of the appointment period, whichever occurs first.  Additional unpaid leave may be arranged on an ad hoc basis.”

Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Protection


Increased access to accommodations for student workers with disabilities. 

Protects student workers against retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions. 


Recognizes a complaint of discrimination or participation in an investigation of alleged discrimination as a protected activity and bans retaliation for participation in complaints or investigations of discrimination. 

University of Michigan 

Expanded classes protected against discrimination to include: “race, creed, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, genetic information, marital status, familial status, parental status or pregnancy status, sex, gender identity or expression (whether actual or perceived), sexual orientation, age, height, weight, disability, citizenship status, veteran status, HIV antibody status, political belief, membership in any social or political organization, participation in a grievance or complaint whether formal or informal, medical conditions including those related to pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, arrest record, or any other factor irrelevant to their employment status or function.”


Graduate student workers cannot be disciplined, suspended, or discharged without just cause and reassignment of a student’s position cannot be used as a disciplinary measure


Graduate student workers have the right for a union representative to be present at any stage of complaints (there is a separate process for identity-based discrimination complaints)

Work Expectations


No Graduate Assistant shall be compelled or pressured to work more than an average of twenty (20) hours per week as part of their assistantship.

U Washington

If appointment is withdrawn after acceptance, the University must provide an equivalent position.

Clear recourse against overwork and mechanism for addressing class-size.


Supervisors shall provide regular feedback to Graduate Assistants on the work they perform, including advice, guidance and support on how to improve their performance. Flexibility in such feedback is encouraged, so as to address the broad nature of work performed by Graduate Assistants and their individual needs.

In the event that a Supervisor has reasonable concerns about a GAs performance, they shall meet with the GA individually as soon as practicable to discuss such concerns and provide the necessary guidance and support for the GA to improve.

U Rhode Island

Established standard definition of workload to provide recourse for overwork.

Administration and Union agree to meet each semester to discuss complaints from Graduate Assistants on excessive workload.

International Students


When a student worker can’t return to the U.S. as a result of their immigration status or reasons outside of their control, Harvard will make “reasonable efforts” to allow the student to work outside of the U.S. 

University of California

Provides paid leave for graduate student workers to attend appointments and/or hearings with federal immigration officials or the U.S. Department of State for the student or their spouse, domestic partner, child or parent.


International students can take up to one semester of medical leave from their role as a graduate student worker without requiring a full medical withdrawal from the university


Waives the university’s Visa Compliance Fee each semester of such graduate student worker’s appointment (normally $700/year)