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Time to Vote! Unionization Election Dates Set

November 8, 2018

Members of the Brown Community,

This morning, after negotiations on a range of matters, I signed on behalf of the University a Memorandum of Understanding with Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees / the American Federation of Teachers on the dates, locations and procedures for an election to determine whether or not eligible graduate assistants at Brown will decide to join a union.

SUGSE/AFT and the University agreed to amend the June 2018 Pre-Election Agreement to include a mechanism for eligible graduate assistants who are currently outside of the United States to vote, since the original agreement did not include a provision for this. SUGSE/AFT also agreed to remove from campus AFT representative Leah Fishbein through the duration of the election process — a step that the University called for given numerous reports that she had violated the conduct standards outlined in the Pre-Election Agreement.

The following paragraphs include important details on voting procedures and more:

Open Forum
The University will hold an open forum for all interested graduate students on Friday, Nov. 9, from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in Salomon 001. The purpose is to share information and answer any questions that students may have. Such a forum is provided for in the Pre-Election Agreement.

Voting Dates and Locations
To ensure that eligible voters are able to exercise their voting rights, the following polling locations will be open on Nov. 14, 15, 16 and 19, 2018, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. each day. As is the case in general elections, voters will be assigned to a particular polling station, which will be based on their degree programs:

BioMed and Life Sciences: Sidney Frank Hall
Engineering and Physical Sciences: Engineering Research Center
Humanities and Social Sciences: Salomon Center for Teaching
Public Health: 121 South Main Street

The Graduate School will email eligible voters with information about their assigned voting location and any other important information.

Absentee Ballots
Because the original Pre-Election Agreement did not have a provision for absentee voting, the University and SUGSE/AFT have amended the agreement to include a process for eligible voters who are studying or conducting research outside of the United States to cast their votes. The details of this process will be shared directly with eligible voters.     

Your Vote Matters! 
The decision on whether or not a union should represent graduate students who are appointed as graduate assistants is a consequential one. Every eligible person should vote, because the election outcome is determined by the majority of those who vote, not a majority of those eligible to vote. Thus, the question of whether or not there will be union representation for non-voters will be decided by those who vote because everyone will be bound by the outcome whether or not they voted in the election.

Who Can Vote?
An eligible voter is a Brown Ph.D. and/or Master’s student currently enrolled in the Graduate School who is appointed as a Teaching Assistant, Research Assistant, and/or Proctor during the semester in which the election is held — or who held such an appointment in the Spring 2018 or Fall 2017 semester. For questions about eligibility, contact [email protected].

Know the Facts
This is a critically important moment for graduate students and graduate education at Brown. If students choose to unionize, SUGSE/AFT will be the exclusive bargaining agent for all graduate assistants on matters related to “wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment.” It is important for all graduate students to become fully informed about the issues and determine whether unionization is in their best interests. Take advantage of the University’s “Be Informed” website, which offers a range of information that may be helpful, and please plan to attend the Open Forum on Friday, Nov. 9, at 12 noon in Salomon 001. Lunch will be available.

We remain committed to an environment that promotes the free and open exchange of ideas, and thoughtful and informed discussion and debate.


Richard M. Locke