In Historic Vote, Brandeis Grad Students Vote ‘Union Yes’ By Over 2:1 Margin

Graduate students at Tufts University also set to vote on unionization in the coming weeks

Waltham, MA — Graduate students at Brandeis University have overwhelmingly voted to form a union, deciding by a two to one margin to join SEIU Local 509. Brandeis graduate students with teaching responsibilities are just the latest Boston-area educators to join SEIU 509 Faculty Forward, which currently represents nearly 4,000 non-tenure-track and adjunct faculty in the area.

“Given the role that graduate student workers play in teaching at Brandeis, we deserve a seat at the table,” said Diana Filar, a, English PhD candidate at Brandeis. “Today’s vote to form a union opens the door to negotiations with the administration to ensure that it focuses on our professional development and training as educators.”

The vote at Brandeis represents the first successful graduate student unionization vote at a private institution in the Boston area since the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)’s August 2016 ruling to allow grad student workers at private institutions to unionize.

“This win is an opportunity to address labor concerns with the administration and frees us and our professors to focus on our academic and research goals. It provides us with an assurance that we can address concerns on an equal footing with the university, without fear of retaliation. Our work suffers when we can’t address our needs, and both we and the university share the common goal of doing our best work,” said Anna Henkin, a PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Biophysics at Brandeis.

The election occurred at Brandeis University on Tuesday, May 2nd, and votes were counted immediately following the election at the election site. Graduate student workers at Tufts University will also hold a unionization vote this month. To arrange an interview with Brandeis graduate students leading the movement to unionize, contact Christie Stephenson: (413) 374-6370.


SEIU Local 509 represents nearly 20,000 human service workers and educators throughout the commonwealth, including nearly 4,000 part- and full-time faculty in the Greater Boston area. SEIU 509 members provide a variety of social services to elders, at-risk children and people with mental illnesses or developmental disabilities — as well as educational opportunities from early learning to higher education. Local 509 is part of the Service Employees International Union, the fastest-growing labor union in the United States.

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