Seeking to resolve issues they say have long plagued Stanford University, graduate student workers intend to form a union, the group announced on Monday.
The students plan to unionize so they can bargain for higher pay, lower cost of living, improved benefits, stronger support for international students and better protections against harassment and discrimination, the group said.
"Graduate workers at Stanford provide essential services to the university, from teaching and research to numerous other kinds of support, but are met with low pay and insufficient protections amidst skyrocketing inflation and costs of living. We deserve to live and work with dignity," said Hannah Johnston, a third-year doctoral candidate in Stanford's history department.
The graduate students say high costs of child care, no subsidy of visa fees for international graduate workers and inadequate mental healthcare resources are among long-running issues at Stanford.
Monica Vidaurri, a second-year doctoral student in Earth and planetary science, said that graduate worker unions at other universities have won similar concessions. "We know not only that we deserve these basic supports, but that they are attainable," she said.
The graduate workers are unionizing with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which helped other graduate student unions across the country, including at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Johns Hopkins University, to successfully unionize.
The union's rally on campus on Monday morning collected 2,571 union authorization cards from grad workers on the first day, organizers said.
In the coming weeks, the Stanford Graduate Workers Union will collect the cards from among the university's roughly 6,500 graduate employees. If the campaign is successful, their union will represent the largest bargaining unit at a private university in the country, they said.
Stanford University, in a statement on Thursday, said: "We recognize and greatly value the many contributions our graduate students make to Stanford's mission of teaching and research. We believe that our relationship with graduate students is first and foremost an educational one, and, we work hard to understand, appreciate and be responsive to the needs of students so that we may foster their well-being during their time at Stanford.
"To that end, the university has taken a number of actions in recent years, including 12 months of funding each year for at least five years, expanded supplemental need-based support and 100% coverage of the Cardinal Care health insurance premium for doctoral students."