California Institute of Technology Academic Workers Vote to Unionize

California Institute of Technology academic workers made history as the first graduate student workers and postdoctoral scholars to unionize together in the same vote.
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Published on February 9, 2024
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  • Graduate student workers at the California Institute of Technology have voted to form a union.
  • The union is made up of graduate and postdoctoral researchers, the first time in labor history both groups have voted at the same time to unionize.
  • The vote was passed with 77% approval for graduate workers and 83% for postdocs.

Academic workers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have voted to unionize.

Caltech Grad Researchers and Postdocs United-United Auto Workers (CGPU-UAW) will represent over 2,000 graduate and postdoctoral researchers at the private research university.

The vote took place Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Graduate researchers voted 76.5% in favor of unionizing, while postdocs voted 82.8% in favor.

The vote is the first time in labor history that both graduate employees and postdocs have voted to unionize at the same time.

"We are incredibly proud of the hard work that led to this overwhelming 'yes' vote," Nadia Suryawinata, an international graduate student at Caltech, said in a press release. "We love our research, but too many of us have been made to withstand abuse in the name of passion. Now, we finally have the ability to determine our working conditions, which will improve our research and our lives."

In a statement, Caltech administration said that the university is committed to a supportive and inclusive research, education, and training environment for all.

"As a community, we have a shared interest in and responsibility for fostering a supportive research, education, and training environment for all. Caltech will continue to pursue this work in a manner that is consistent with our values and mission to advance education and research for the benefit of society," Shayna Chabner, Caltech's chief communications officer, said in an email to BestColleges.

The workers unionized under UAW, which represents over 100,000 academic workers at more than 40 institutions of higher education, including the University of Southern California and the University of California.

And Caltech isn't alone — graduate and postdoctoral workers across the country have been voting to unionize. Last year, postdoctoral scholars at Cornell University’s Weill Cornell College of Medicine voted to unionize with UAW, as did graduate workers at the University of Alaska.

"This resounding vote in favor of their union demonstrates that Graduate Researchers and Postdocs at Caltech are ready to have a say in determining their working conditions …," Mike Miller, director of UAW Region 6, said in the release.

"Their UAW siblings stand in strong solidarity as they prepare to bargain for the contract they deserve and raise the bar for academic workers everywhere."