BU Graduate Workers Union

International student union questions – answered by international students!

Yes, we are! International grad workers have the same right to unionize as domestic grad workers. In fact across the U.S. international students are leading unionization efforts.

Hundreds! International students from every department at BU are coming together to form this union. You will be joining a very large community of fellow international students.

Some of us put together a survey to answer this exact question (fill it out here!). It turns out that most of us are facing very similar issues across departments: 

  • 77% of respondents’ main concern is the low stipend
  • 50% prioritize summer funding and comprehensive health insurance
  • 45% would like better social and community support for international students

When we unionize, we gain the right to negotiate with BU to improve our working conditions. This would include things like a higher stipend, summer funding, and better healthcare, all of which are important to international students. We could also fight for international-student specific demands like the ones other universities have won:

  • Georgetown, Harvard grads made the universities rehire people who experienced an interruption in their work authorization or immigration status
  • UMass Amherst, Oregon State University workers won reimbursements from their universities for work authorization-related fees
  • Harvard workers won remote work guarantees for individuals temporarily unable to enter the U.S.
  • Harvard, UMass Amherst are now obligated to provide workers additional legal support by maintaining a list of immigration attorneys and paid legal aid

You’re not alone in this fear. Many of us who come from countries without strong labor protections shared similar concerns at first. Within the US, however:

  • Under the National Labor Relations Act, workers of all citizenship, visa, and immigration statuses have the right to organize and join a union
  • No employer is allowed to retaliate against you for union activity, eg. BU cannot threaten your visa if you unionize.

It is true that BU might decide to risk taking an illegal action. But that is a danger we are already exposed to now without a union. Universities regularly take advantage of our legal vulnerability, and workers are often punished for speaking up even when such retaliation is illegal. This is why at the end of the day, our willingness to fight for one another is our strongest protection! When we come together as thousands of international students, it is harder for BU to single anyone out for retaliation, and we have more power to fight back if BU does try to target someone unjustly.