Graduate workers at Northwestern Union this week voted overwhelmingly to unionize, by a 1644-114 margin, a 93% per initial count numbers shared by the National Labor Relations Board.

The union win represents the culmination of organizing efforts nearly six years in the making.

Prior to the union election, a member of the Northwestern University graduate workers’ union painted The Rock, urging people to vote. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

“I don’t think any of us were prepared for this incredible margin,” said Emilie Lozier, co-chair of the union and a fifth-year Ph.D chemistry candidate. She said the landslide vote is a sign of the union’s strength and longevity.

The Northwestern Graduate Workers Union, or NUGW, ran on a platform with with goals including improved pay, better standards in labs, resources to address misconduct, comprehensive healthcare and financial support for international students. The vote this week means United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, a labor union, or UE, is authorized to represent NU grad workers as a collective bargaining group.

However, the work is far from over, Lozier said. The union intends to continue bargaining with the university and gain recognition, she said.

Graduate students at NU were optimistic on the second day of elections prior to the tally count. “I think grad students deserve to have more of say in their work conditions,” said Allison Gibelly, a third-year graduate student in the English department. Others echoed that sentiment.

Signs outside a classroom in the Mudd Library on the second day of the NUGW union election. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

“I voted because I’ve seen the work our union has done in organizing over the years,” said Michelle Bueno Vasquez, a fourth-year student pursuing a Ph.D in political science and statistics. Graduate workers are seen as students by the administration, with the vote being a chance to change that, she said. “Our stipend has not kept up with inflation,” she said.

Like other graduate programs, NU has a sizeable international student population, represented by nearly 40% students at the university, per Fall 2022 numbers. “The international scholar population at Northwestern is so huge, so passionate, so involved. They showed up and voted really hard this week and we saw those results today,” Lozier said.

Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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