University of Chicago Graduate Workers Vote to Affiliate with AFT, IFT, AAUP


CHICAGO—Graduate employees at the University of Chicago have overwhelmingly
reaffirmed their choice to organize with the American Federation of Teachers, the
Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University

Members of Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago voted 302-179 for
continued AFT-IFT-AAUP affiliation in a ballot that concluded Tuesday night. GSU has
been jointly affiliated with the three unions since 2011.

GSU member Tanima Sharma, a third-year Anthropology student, said: “We’re thrilled
that our membership took so seriously the questions of the recent referendum. Based
on its clear mandate, we are ready to begin organizing a union-recognition campaign
that will be able to address the issues facing grad students on this campus and at
private universities around the country.

“We need better pay, more-secure funding and stronger healthcare plans. We need
meaningful commitments to diversity and inclusion, and we need a say in the terms of
our labor. Unionization is the best path to achieve these goals and to
institutionalize democracy at the University of Chicago.”

The University of Chicago vote comes hot on the heels of a new wave of private
sector graduate workers seeking to organize with the AFT at Cornell University and
other institutions across the country. The AFT represents the oldest graduate
employee local (formed in 1969) and more than 25,000 graduate employees at 23
institutions across nine states. The AFT is also the largest union of university
faculty in the United States.

The IFT, which is affiliated with the AFT, represents faculty, staff and grad
students at the University of Illinois (at the Chicago, Urbana-Champaign and
Springfield campuses), Chicago State University, City Colleges of Chicago, community
colleges throughout Cook County, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois
University and more.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “This week, in the wake of the new National
Labor Relations Board decision supporting their right to organize, graduate
employees at the University of Chicago reaffirmed their affiliation with the AFT and
their path to a real voice with the university.

“We are proud of our long partnership with GSU at the University of Chicago and are
excited to work together to address the very real issues the grad workers, who do
much of the teaching and research on campus, need addressed. Tens of thousands of
graduate students are already affiliated with the AFT, as momentum builds in our
nationwide fight for them to be recognized as the higher education professionals
they are. The AFT will be with them every step of the way.”

IFT President Daniel Montgomery, who is an AFT vice president, said: “The University
of Chicago works, in large part, because of the labor performed by graduate
employees. They deserve to have a real say in the decisions that affect them every
day. Today, the GSU grad students sent a message that the best way to make change is
to build power and collaboration at the grass roots. We’re very proud that they’re
part of the IFT family, which already includes thousands of higher education
faculty, staff and graduate student employees across the state.”

Since 1915, the AAUP has worked to promote the economic well-being of faculty and
academic professionals, to protect their academic freedom and to ensure their
meaningful participation in decision-making on campus. The AAUP has chapters at
hundreds of institutions across the country. It has long been committed to
organizing graduate employees and currently represents them at a number of
institutions where they have achieved significant gains as a result of collective

Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the AAUP, said: “The AAUP is thrilled to be working
with graduate employees at the University of Chicago. Members of Graduate Students
United at the University of Chicago have shown their commitment to creating a
member-run union as they campaigned to improve conditions on their campus. The AAUP
is proud to support them and looks forward to continuing to work with them to
enhance their voice on campus.”