Graduate Student Unionization: Information and Resources

August 9, 2017

Dear Brown Faculty, Staff and Graduate Students,

Last August, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that graduate students at private colleges and universities who serve as teaching or research assistants are employees with the right to decide whether or not to unionize. As graduate students at Brown explore the potential for unionization and this important conversation continues across campus, we have developed an updated website — titled “Be Informed” — to serve as a resource on everything from facts about unionization to the University’s position.

After the NLRB ruling, President Paxson, Graduate School Dean Andrew Campbell and I wrote to the campus community noting that the University would comply with the decision. We emphasized that the question of unionization is a significant responsibility and choice. Much activity has taken place since then. Graduate students at other private universities have organized union elections with varying results. At Brown, a vote was held last spring to determine which labor union graduate students would affiliate with, should an effort toward unionization proceed.

During these conversations about unionization, it is essential that Brown’s graduate students have access to the information needed to make an informed choice. With an introduction to collective bargaining, an overview of the NLRB election process and other resources, our goal is that this website serve as a source of information that proves useful to graduate students in the course of their discussions.

For more than a century, graduate education has been central to Brown’s mission. We remain committed to attracting and supporting exceptional graduate students and working with them through a system of shared governance to provide a diverse and inclusive community of scholars who collaborate to advance knowledge and discovery. This commitment will continue regardless of whether graduate students vote to unionize or not.

We look forward to robust and constructive discussion about these issues in the months ahead.


Richard M. Locke