BU Graduate Workers Union

BU Graduate Workers won our union in 2022, and have been in negotiations for over eight months with the university. We are fighting for a living wage, workload protections, and stronger health care, child care, and family leave benefits. 

Graduate workers are the backbone of BU’s world class reputation, but many of us are navigating food insecurity, financial instability, and health issues daily—on top of unsustainable workloads. We need a fair contract now, but BU has engaged in unfair labor practices, including by failing to provide the information we need to reach all members and to bargain! This is why we are going on strike to pressure the university’s administration to negotiate with us in good faith and agree to a fair contract that meets our needs. 

This FAQ is designed to address faculty & staff questions about what a strike will look like for other workers on campus and how to support us as we fight for a better BU for everyone.

Since June 2023, we have been bargaining with the administration for a living wage, dental insurance, and other basic provisions. This year, 12-month graduate stipends amount to $40,977 and 8-month stipends amount to $27,318. Our living wage proposal reflects the amount a graduate worker needs to earn to afford the median-priced graduate student housing offered by our own university without being rent burdened (paying over 30% of take home income towards housing). Graduate workers are not allowed to seek outside employment, even during the summer, regardless of stipend length. Ending rent burden for thousands of graduate students is a major priority for us at the bargaining table, as well as ensuring all graduate workers have 12-month appointments to bring us closer to a living wage.

In our proposal, we have stipulated that the cost of our raises be funded by the university’s central operational funds, and not through departments, individual grants, or PIs’ grants. BU has the money: for reference, BU’s operational surplus in FY 2022-2023 was $152,000,000 and their net assets grew by $414,000,000.

Negotiations with BU have been ongoing since June 2023 with no significant progress. Though we introduced dozens of proposals, the university made no substantive counterproposals to move the process forward until rumors of a strike began circulating in early February. During this process, five Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board, including for failing to provide required information to help our union identify its members.

With rent and other living costs rapidly increasing, we cannot afford to wait indefinitely for the university to bargain with us in good faith and come to a fair agreement. We are going on strike to compel university administrators to offer us a fair contract. The goal of this disruption is not to antagonize our colleagues, but to put pressure on the decision makers of this university to heed our urgent needs.

While BU may have directed faculty and staff not to discuss their opinions about the strike, we are aware of no law that prohibits them from doing so as long as they don’t:

  • Discourage them through threats, intimidation, or retaliation,  
  • Attempt to force graduate workers to disclose whether they are going on strike, or
  • Negotiate private deals with workers that undercut or functionally replace the larger negotiations between the union and the employer (e.g., “We’ll raise your stipends by $10,000, just don’t strike our lab!”)

We intend to continue communicating openly with all members of the campus community.

Here are some actions you can take to support striking graduate workers across the university:

  • Sign the faculty non-retaliation letter or write one of your own as unified faculty in your department and send it to the BU administration.
  • Join us at the picket lines in your free time to demonstrate your support for the fundamental principles of justice and workers’ rights. This also sends a powerful message to BU that these issues are vital to the entire academic community.
  • Hold class on the picket line. A strike in our campus community is an opportunity to talk about economic power, the role of institutions in the local community, and having a voice on the job.
  • Or simply reach out to your department’s own graduate students to hear their thoughts and needs. We welcome honest conversations about how we can collectively improve our community.

For a more thorough FAQ please see this document. Note this has been yet been approved by SEIU legal and should not be considered legal advice.