In August 2017, we featured important contract wins from unions across the country that have made workplaces more diverse, more accessible, more family-friendly and more representative of the needs and priorities of workers. We have collected these posts below, which feature a range of benefits and protections beyond direct compensation such as paid diversity work, gender-neutral restrooms or concrete protections from sexual harassment.

No automatic alt text available.Diversity
Who does the work of creating and maintaining an inclusive university environment? Often it’s the very individuals most adversely affected by non-inclusive environments. Recognizing the disproportionate burden of this frequently unpaid labor, the Graduate Employees’ Organization 3550 at University of Michigan negotiated in their contract for paid positions for student workers to help implement their university’s diversity initiatives. Last year, Harvard’s new “Inclusion and Belonging Task Force” acknowledged “a promise to diversity requires attention beyond our hiring and admissions decisions.” Treating the work that students do on behalf of diversity seriously is a way for the university to treat diversity seriously. The chart below from UMichigan demonstrates student interest in doing that work and in holding their university accountable to its rhetoric on diversity and inclusion. #contractmonth
Image may contain: textGender-Neutral Bathrooms
It is essential that campuses are safe and accessible to all student workers. Graduate unions from Connecticut to California have worked to secure the provision of gender-neutral restrooms, so trans and non-binary students have access to the spaces they need. Read the testimonial below from a graduate student worker at UC Student-Workers Union – UAW Local 2865 on why such provisions are critical for their ability to perform their teaching duties. #contractmonth
LGBTQ Rights
LGBT rights are workers’ rights, and union contracts have been significant vehicles for advancing workplace equality. Graduate workers at Temple University Graduate Students’ Association secured in their first contract in 2002 the provision of health benefits for same-sex domestic partners, the first time these benefits were extended to same-sex domestic partners at any state university in Pennsylvania. And, thanks to the work of our colleagues at the UC Student-Workers Union – UAW Local 2865, more inclusive language, which allows a range of dependent relationships to be classified as family, has been adopted across all campuses in the University of California system expanding access to benefits for all workers. #contractmonth For another UAW win on paid leave, read more:
Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, textInternational Students
As the Trump administration advances a new wave of anti-immigrant legislation, working to protect the rights of international student workers is now more important than ever. Graduate unions nationwide have secured support for international students experiencing immigration difficulties, ensuring that universities act in good faith, and employees are not penalized for having to go through immigration procedures. Here in Massachusetts, workers at UMass Lowell guaranteed participation of the International Student Office in meetings between the Union and the University administration, so the concerns of international students are taken seriously. Join our International Scholars’ Working Group for their first meeting of the school year next Wednesday at 6pm (location TBC) to organize around international scholar and immigration-related issues. #contractmonth
Image may contain: textUnion Democracy
Unions take the democratic process seriously. Did you know that many countries hold their elections on weekends or across many days to ensure that as many people can vote as possible? For employees from countries that don’t, international students at Oregon State University and the Coalition of Graduate Employees AFT Local 6069 ( have organized to guarantee the right of international grad workers to rearrange their work, so they can take part in their national elections — even if that means going in person to the embassy or consular office. #contractmonth

Adequate Mental Health Resources
Graduate school can place troubling demands on student workers’ mental health, and the cost of treatment often only makes problems worse. In their new contract, graduate workers at the University of Michigan Graduate Employees Organization 3550 negotiated an annual maximum copayment on mental health visits, i.e. all visits would be free after hitting the cap, coming closer to ensuring the price of care does not discourage students from getting the help they need. Hear from Harvard grad worker Patricia Manos on how such a measure would have helped in her situation and why this is one of the main reasons she continues to organize to win our union. #contractmonth

Sexual Harassment
In a 2015 survey, 44% of female graduate students say they have been sexually harassed in ways that disrupted their academic or professional performance. Even more unacceptable is that university sexual assault proceedings often fail to uphold rights guaranteed under Title IX, denying justice to survivors and upholding only the university’s interest. At the University of California, graduate workers from UC Student-Workers Union – UAW Local 2865 secured the option to substitute university-run sexual harassment proceedings with union grievance procedures.‘“With a union there’s a way to resolve this issue without worry about whether administrators will be fair to you,” explains [graduate student Olga] Brudastova. “You are guaranteed representation at every meeting, every step of the way, which is especially important in tragic cases like sexual harassment and sexual assault. You cannot defeat the system on your own.”’ #contractmonthRead more at