Building 10 on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Building 10 on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT Graduate Students Vote to Unionize

Plans to form a union affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America were approved by a vote of 1,785 to 912.

Catherine Offord
Catherine Offord

Catherine is a senior editor at The Scientist.

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Apr 7, 2022

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Graduate students at MIT have this week voted to unionize, with 1,785 votes cast for the move and 912 against it. The poll, which was held on Monday and Tuesday (April 4–5), sought approval to form a union affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), and tapped into a range of student issues including affordable housing and better health insurance. 

Announcing the win in a tweet yesterday, the MIT Graduate Student Union wrote: “What started 4 years ago with a dozen students in an MIT classroom discussing the needs of graduate workers has culminated in this historic victory for student-workers at MIT.”

The university’s official account replied: “We congratulate the members of the MIT GSU on their dedicated work that led to this election. MIT’s representatives expect to meet with MIT GSU and UE leaders to begin good-faith negotiations over the terms and conditions of employment for the members of this bargaining unit.”

In a letter shared with students earlier this week and now posted online by the MIT News Office, the institution’s chancellor, Melissa Nobles, and the vice chancellor for undergraduate and graduate education, Ian Waitz, thank the community for engaging “constructively and respectfully” in debate about unionization. They also note that the union represents less than one-third of MIT’s 12,000 students, and say that they “will continue to uphold our responsibility to every student, both those who are represented by the union and those who are not.”

The graduate student group that organized the vote had previously successfully campaigned to increase the number of annual visits a student could make to a mental health clinician while still being fully covered by MIT’s student insurance, from 12 to 52. Other ongoing causes include issues of harassment and discrimination on campus and COVID-19 funding relief for graduate students.