Graduate Workers Union overwhelmingly ratifies economic platform

Following a weeks-long voting period, members of the Stanford Graduate Workers Union (SGWU) overwhelmingly passed its new economic platform with 98% in support among 1,689 total votes. Roughly one-third of union cardholders voted, according to SGWU bargaining committee member and fourth-year biophysics Ph.D. candidate Sophie Walton.

The platform will guide the SGWU’s agenda when bargaining on economic items with the University. Organizers hoped negotiations would begin following a May 16 rally in White Plaza, but Walton said that “realistically” the discussions won’t start until mid-June.

According to Walton, the University’s lawyers and bargaining team asked to push back the presentation of the economic platform because “there hadn’t been sufficient enough progress made” on Language Articles negotiations. 

Since last November, the SGWU and the University have debated the Language Articles — a set of non-economic proposals centering around union rights, anti-harassment policies and grievance procedures. Thus far, less than half of the articles have reached a “tentative agreement” by both parties.

The University is “continuing to negotiate in good faith with the union, and we look forward to receiving the union’s economic proposals when the union presents them to the university during negotiations,” wrote University spokesperson Dee Mostofi in a statement to The Daily.

The SGWU’s economic platform calls on the University for “an immediate and substantial pay raise for all graduate workers,” alongside support for affordable housing, expansion to transportation benefits and expanded access to health care. This finalized version came after months of surveys, internal debate and a feedback period open to all SGWU cardholding members.

“[Feedback] was a productive period to understand what people’s key issues were — where people’s attention gravitated, because that informs at the bargaining table what do we push the hardest for, what do we emphasize,” said Jason Beckman, SGWU bargaining committee member and seventh-year Ph.D. candidate in East Asian Languages and Culture.

The SGWU’s collective bargaining comes amid a series of unionization efforts at universities across the country. Walton pointed out that graduate students at Dartmouth College recently went on strike and are represented by the same national union as SGWU: the United Electrical Workers union. 

A strike at Stanford “could happen as well,” she said.

Parth Nobel, SGWU bargaining committee member and third-year Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, said that “it’s too early to say” whether a strike will happen at Stanford and that he is holding out hope for a quick bargaining process on the economic platform. 

Still, Walton stressed that a strike was “within the realm of possibility.”

“[Strikes are] not something that people take lightly. It is not something that we want to do willy-nilly,” Walton said. “If we’re going on strike, it’s a sign that things at the bargaining table are not working … this is a last resort option.”

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