USC Graduate Student Workers Vote to Unionize

More than 90% of graduate workers at the University of Southern California voted to form a union following recent unionization efforts for academic workers across the country.
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  • Graduate student workers at USC have voted to form a union.
  • The union is made up of teaching assistants, research assistants, and assistant lecturers.
  • The vote was passed with 93% approval.

Graduate student workers at the University of Southern California (USC) have voted to unionize.

Graduate Student Workers Organizing Committee-United Auto Workers (GSWOC-UAW) will represent the 3,000 teaching assistants, research assistants, and assistant lecturers at USC, according to UAW.

The vote took place from Feb. 15-16 and passed on a vote of 1,599 to 122.

Almost 100,000 academic workers across the country have unionized with UAW, according to the organization.

Academic UAW unions include academic student workers at the University of California (UAW 2865 and 5810), Harvard University (Harvard Graduate Student Union-UAW 5118), Columbia University (Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW 2710), and the University of Washington (UAW 4121).

"We are so energized by this resounding vote in favor of our union," Stepp Mayes, a graduate student worker in civil and environmental engineering, said in a UAW press release. "The support for our union keeps growing stronger, and we will be bringing this solidarity and energy to the bargaining table. We are confident that our union will be good for us and good for USC, and we look forward to meeting them at the table soon to bargain a contract that makes us all stronger."

According to GSWOC-UAW, the next steps include electing a bargaining team, deciding on initial bargaining demands, and beginning to negotiate with the USC administration.

Initial demands of the union include more protections against workplace harassment and abusive conduct, better pay, affordable and safe housing for workers, increased support for international workers, and improved benefits for graduate student workers with families.

"Right now, USC administration unilaterally decides if, when, and how to address challenges faced by Grad Student Workers," the GSWOC website reads. "With collective bargaining, we can meet at the bargaining table as equals. With strong participation and support from the entire GSW community, we can bargain for a union contract that better meets our needs."

"USC fully supports our graduate students and respects their decision to be represented by a union," USC said in a statement to BestColleges.

"We recognize the important role they play at the university and are proud that we provide stipends and benefits for our graduate students that already are very competitive with those of our peers, including the stipends and benefits recently agreed upon after extensive negotiations at UCLA. We are committed to bargaining in good faith to reach a fair contract."

Workers at USC join those across the state and country who have engaged in campuswide labor actions for better pay, more affordable living conditions, and workplace protections.

In November, 48,000 academic workers at the University of California system went on strike to demand increased wages, better benefits such as childcare and paid leave, nondiscrimination and anti-bullying protections, and reasonable accommodations.

Workers won new contracts with wage increases in 2023 and 2024, increased childcare credits, and more paid parental leave. However, the UAW said in late January that UC may be making big cuts to pay for those gains.