Update on the Negotiations with GAGE/AFT Anchor

Update on the Negotiations with GAGE/AFT

What is the latest on the negotiations between Georgetown and GAGE/AFT?

Since the election results were certified last fall, Georgetown and GAGE/AFT have engaged in the collective bargaining process and have reached tentative agreements on more than twenty subjects, including management rights, union rights, grievance and arbitration procedures, and procedures to address claims of discrimination and harassment. We have nearly completed negotiations over non-economic proposals and we have begun to negotiate over proposals that have a direct economic impact on the University, including health, dental, and other benefits for Graduate Student Assistants.

Georgetown is committed to continuing to negotiate in good faith and would like to reach a collective bargaining agreement by the end of this spring semester. In an effort to keep the negotiations moving forward, we will continue weekly meetings this spring.

What matters are currently subject to negotiation?

The election agreement lists the issues that are mandatory subjects of bargaining and also list the academic issues that are not subject to negotiation. Under the election agreement, matters subject to negotiation include service hours, stipend levels, and benefits for Graduate Student Assistants.

Academic matters such as decisions relating to admissions, organization of departments/units/programs/courses, curriculum and degree components and requirements, academic decisions relating to Graduate Student Assistant appointments, and resolution of academic disputes between faculty and students are not subject to bargaining.

Please consult the election agreement for a complete list of the mandatory subjects of bargaining and the academic issues that are not subject to bargaining. The election agreement provides for good faith bargaining, but neither party can be compelled to agree to any proposal or to make any concession in bargaining. Therefore, the terms of any collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) require agreement from both the University and GAGE/AFT.

Who is in the bargaining unit represented by the union?

Since GAGE/AFT was elected by a majority of voters, the union represents all Graduate Student Assistants within the bargaining unit, including those who voted against the union or those who did not vote. Graduate students who are not included in the bargaining unit are not represented by GAGE/AFT.

This bargaining unit consists of students enrolled in Georgetown University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences graduate degree programs (Ph.D. and Master’s) and who also hold service titles as Ph.D. Research Assistants, Ph.D. Teaching Assistants, Ph.D. Teaching Associates, Graduate Research Assistants, Graduate Teaching Assistants, Student Research Assistants, and Student Teaching Assistants (collectively, these positions are referred to as “Graduate Student Assistants”). This includes those in graduate programs in Georgetown College, the School of Foreign Service, the McCourt School of Public Policy, the Medical Center (except for M.D. students), the McDonough School of Business and the School of Continuing Studies.

What will the union mean for future matriculating students?

When new students are appointed as Graduate Student Assistants (as described above), they will become members of the bargaining unit and their appointments will be governed by any CBA that the University negotiates with GAGE/AFT.

When are negotiations expected to conclude?

Georgetown is committed to continuing to negotiate in good faith and would like to reach a CBA by the end of this spring semester.

What may faculty and staff say in response to questions about negations from students?

You may refer them back to this website for the latest information on the bargaining process. You may also remind them that discussions on all matters subject to negotiation should take place at the bargaining table. Students should communicate with GAGE/AFT about the negotiations and any opinions or ideas they may have.

If I object to a specific provision in the CBA, am I still bound by it?

Because a majority of Graduate Student Assistants voted to have GAGE/AFT represent them , all Graduate Student Assistants in the bargaining unit will be represented by GAGE/AFT and bound by the terms of the CBA, even if they object to it.

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Union Representation and Dues Anchor

Union Representation and Dues

If a graduate student does not want to be represented by GAGE/AFT, can a student opt out?

No. Because a majority of voters approved the formation of a graduate student union, all graduate students enrolled in Georgetown University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences graduate degree programs (Ph.D. and Masters) and who are serving as Graduate Student Assistants are represented by GAGE/AFT.

How much can students within the union be expected to pay in dues? Who would have to pay union dues?

It is typical for all members of the bargaining unit to be required to pay dues or analogous fees to the union, regardless of whether they voted for or against unionization or did not vote at all. The amount of dues or fees will be determined by GAGE/AFT, not the University. GAGE has previously said that the Graduate Student Assistants can expect to pay dues of around one to two percent of their compensation.

Will a student have to pay dues, even if they don’t want to join the union?

Questions regarding dues or other fees should be directed to GAGE/AFT.

How much are union dues and how do students pay them?

Questions regarding dues or other fees should be directed to GAGE/AFT.

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Graduate Student Life at Georgetown Anchor

Graduate Student Life at Georgetown

How are decisions made at Georgetown with respect to matters like graduate student stipends, assistantships and benefits?

Graduate stipends are allocated by the program in which the student is enrolled. The stipend level and graduate student policies/benefits are determined by University Administration with the advice, counsel, and, when warranted, approval of the Executive Committee of the Graduate School.

How will the negotiations with GAGE/AFT affect graduate student stipends and benefits?

Stipend amounts, wage rates and benefits for Graduate Student Assistants are subject to negotiation with GAGE/AFT. The current levels of stipends, wage rates, and benefits will remain in place during the negotiations.

What are the current stipend and benefits for doctoral students?

The 2019-20 Academic Year stipend is $29,000 on the Main Campus and $31,000 for the Medical Center for 15 hours per week of service over 32 weeks in the academic year (16 weeks per semester). In addition, doctoral students receive full tuition remission, and Georgetown covers the costs of doctoral students’ enrollment in the University’s Premier Student Health Insurance plan.

What health insurance is available to graduate students?

Health insurance is available to full-time graduate students through Georgetown University’s Premier Student Health Insurance plan, and costs of this plan are covered for doctoral students. Georgetown’s plan provides the highest level of coverage at a moderate cost.

Because of changes made to the plan since the 2018-19 year, most students pay 50 percent less for covered treatment at in-network providers, since co-insurance will be reduced from 20 percent to 10 percent. Out-of-pocket costs for enrollees are capped at $5,000 for the plan year, down from $6,350. Enrollees visiting the Student Health Center will continue to pay nothing for covered medical expenses, after a small co-payment.

In addition to a high-quality medical coverage through the national UnitedHealthCare network, students on the plan will continue to have access to the following discount networks: United HealthAllies, Basix Dental, and EyeMed vision coverage. All students may also purchase comprehensive dental and vision coverage by visiting gallagherstudent.com and searching for Georgetown.

What sort of out-of-pocket health costs do graduate students face?

Currently, out-of-pocket costs for graduate students are capped at $5,000 for the plan year, down from $6,350.

What resources and training are available to prevent sexual misconduct and gender discrimination within our graduate student community?

Georgetown University strives to maintain a community characterized by respect for others. At a minimum, this means a community that is free from sexual and discriminatory harassment. All incoming students must complete the online Title IX education training, and any student listed as the instructor of record for a course must complete the online RESPECT training. The Title IX Office, along with the Graduate School, also offers a wide variety of training for students, both online and in-person. Beginning Fall 2017, the two offices began to offer in-person training to Ph.D. students and faculty within a department by request. These sessions have been tailored to meet the needs of the students or faculty requesting the training, and can be as small as an in-depth situational discussion, or as large as a formalized group session. These training sessions will continue and will be open to all departments.

We have also developed a custom website to connect members of community with resources to address sexual misconduct: https://sexualassault.georgetown.edu/resourcecenter.

What resources are available to graduate students who have children?

Georgetown graduate students have the same eligibility and priority for enrolling their children in Hoya Kids Learning Center as full-time faculty and staff members. To maintain eligibility, the student must be enrolled in at least one class in two out of the three semesters in the academic year. Because of the center’s small size, a child may be added to the waitlist before his/her enrollment. A child’s place on the waiting list depends on his/her age cohort, and application date, as well as these three factors for each other child on the waiting list. Graduate students and their children may also access all of the family centered activities offered at Georgetown University.

What is Georgetown’s parental leave policy for graduate students?

The Graduate School offers support for graduate students who need to take leave in connection with the birth of and/or full-time care of a new child during their period of enrollment. The goal in offering this support is to allow graduate students to continue their studies with as little disruption as possible. Parental leave is intended to enable the graduate student to continue to make progress toward their degree. Graduate students may take up to six consecutive weeks of parental leave within the first six weeks immediately following the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child. Doctoral graduate assistants will continue to receive their assistantship stipend during the six weeks of parental leave and will be relieved of their service requirements. The granting of requests for parental leave will not affect tuition scholarships held by graduate assistants. More information about the parental leave policy and additional terms that may apply for doctoral graduate assistants can be found in the Graduate Bulletin.

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Election Process Anchor

Election Process

When and where was the election held?

The election was held November 5, 6, 7, and 8, 2018.

What was the final vote?

Of the approximately 1,100 graduate student assistants eligible to vote, the count was 555-108, with the majority in favor of unionization.

How was the election conducted?

The election was done by a secret ballot conducted by the American Arbitration Association. The election was decided by a majority of those eligible Graduate Student Assistants who actually vote in the election. The election followed an April 2018 agreement between the University and GAGE/AFT, which creates a framework recognizing that graduate students’ relationship with the University is fundamentally an educational one, while also responding to their desire to have a stronger voice in the terms of their service as Graduate Student Assistants.

Who was eligible to vote in the election?

Any graduate student who was serving as a Graduate Student Assistant (as defined above) during the semester in which the election took place (Fall 2018), or who served in such a position in the prior two semesters and was actively enrolled in Georgetown University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences graduate degree programs.

Who decided if GAGE/AFT would represent graduate assistants?

The choice of whether to be represented by GAGE/AFT was determined by a majority of the eligible Graduate Student Assistants who actually voted in the election. All eligible Graduate Student Assistants are bound by the choice made by a majority of those who voted in the election.

What is the recent history of graduate student unionization at Georgetown?

On Nov. 1, 2017, GAGE asked that the University voluntarily recognize GAGE/AFT as the collective bargaining representative for a group of graduate student assistants at Georgetown.

On Dec. 4, 2017, Provost Robert M. Groves and Executive Vice President for Health Sciences Edward B. Healton informed GAGE that, after careful consultation and serious consideration, Georgetown University would not recognize it as the collective bargaining representative without first holding a supervised election among eligible graduate students.

At the end of December 2017, GAGE/AFT proposed that Georgetown enter into an agreement for an election that would be administered by a neutral third party, the American Arbitration Association (AAA), rather than by the NLRB, which typically oversees union elections. Georgetown gave this proposal serious consideration and determined it could provide an opportunity for a framework that would recognize that our graduate students’ relationship with the University is fundamentally an educational one, while also responding to graduate students’ desire to have a stronger voice in the terms of their service as Graduate Student Assistants. Georgetown then met with representatives of GAGE/AFT in a good-faith effort to develop an agreement that would meet these two objectives.

On April 2, 2018, GAGE/AFT and Georgetown reached agreement on the terms of an election process that the University thinks reflects and honors the principally academic relationship of graduate students to the University while enabling them to have a greater say in the terms of their service as Graduate Student Assistants. A copy of the election agreement can be found here.

How did the University reach its position on graduate student unionization?

The University consulted with faculty members involved in graduate education, elected faculty leaders, the Graduate School Executive Committee, the Provost’s Faculty Advisory Committee, deans of schools affected by the request for a union, and program directors and chairs of departments with large Ph.D. programs. The election agreement addressed faculty concerns by recognizing that core academic issues would not be subject to negotiation. On March 23, 2018, the Executive Committee of the Graduate School, the principal academic policy-making body of the Graduate School, passed a resolution in support of this approach.

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Unionization Process Anchor

Unionization Process

What is a union?

A union is an organization that represents a specific group of employees (or “bargaining unit”) for purposes of collective bargaining. On behalf of its bargaining unit, a union negotiates a contract (or “collective bargaining agreement”) that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for those employees within the bargaining unit. A union also represents members of the bargaining unit when disputes arise between members and their employer.

Are any Georgetown employees represented by unions?

Georgetown has a long history of working collaboratively with unions representing its employees. 1199SEIU has represented Georgetown’s facilities employees for decades. Georgetown University police officers have similarly been represented by a union for decades and are currently represented by LEOSU-DC. More recently, Main Campus adjuncts voted for representation by SEIU Local 500. All of Georgetown’s unions were selected through an election process administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

What is the difference between an election ordered by the NLRB and a private election agreement?

A private election agreement is administered by a third party, such as the American Arbitration Association, rather than by the NLRB. The NLRB is a federal agency created to enforce the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA is a federal law originally passed in 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers by, among other things, safeguarding employees’ rights to choose whether to be represented by a union. The process under a private election agreement is similar to the process in an election conducted by the NLRB, but the functions performed by the NLRB are instead performed by a neutral arbitrator guided by the terms included in the election agreement.

What is the American Arbitration Association?

The American Arbitration Association (AAA) is a not-for-profit organization that provides alternative dispute resolution services outside of the court system.

Has AAA administered other graduate student union elections?

Cornell University and Brown University entered into agreements for a graduate student union election administered by the AAA.

Has Georgetown recognized a union without an election based on a majority of potential members signing authorization forms or cards?

No. All of Georgetown’s unions were selected through NLRB elections, which provide for a secret ballot and strict procedures to ensure that there is no employer or union coercion of voters.

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Graduate Student Unionization Efforts at Other Institutions Anchor

Graduate Student Unionization Efforts at Other Institutions

Is it the established law that graduate student assistants are employees?

The controlling federal law – the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) – does not specifically include graduate students in the definition of “employee.” The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issues rulings interpreting the statute. After the NLRB first asserted jurisdiction over private universities in 1970, the NLRB held that graduate assistants are primarily students, and therefore not eligible to organize. In 2000, the NLRB changed course, holding that graduate assistants can be considered employees who are entitled to unionize, but this holding was reversed in 2004, when the NLRB again held that graduate student assistants are students, not employees, for the purposes of the NLRA. This remained the NLRB’s interpretation until August 2016, when its Columbia University decision found that graduate student assistants are employees with the right to organize.

These changing NLRB interpretations reflect different understandings of the graduate student experience and the role of teaching and research in graduate education. Georgetown, like many other private universities, believes that a graduate student’s relationship with the University is fundamentally an educational one, not one of employer and employee. The opportunity to conduct independent research and to teach is a vital component of a graduate education.

Are there graduate student unions at other universities?

New York University, Tufts, Brandeis and American University have entered into collective bargaining agreements with their respective graduate student unions, and Harvard University is currently in bargaining. Elections have also been held on a number of campuses, with graduate students sometimes voting for a union, such as the University of Chicago, and sometimes not, as was the case at Duke University and Washington University.

Graduate student unions exist at some public universities, but these universities are subject to state law, not federal labor law. State law often differs from federal labor law in many significant respects. For instance, state law may prohibit strikes and may protect certain academic decisions from collective bargaining.

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