Twitter  Instagram

Boston Graduate Workers Union


Bargaining Session 11 Summary

🎉  On Wednesday, February 14th, BUGWU met BU at the table for our eleventh bargaining session for a strong contract. We received a number of counter proposals from BU, and it’s time for members to come together and escalate 🎉 

After months of waiting BU has finally offered counter proposals to our economic platform. They came with counters on compensation, benefits, professional development, pay day, personnel records, and transitional assistance. See below for a description of their counters, but in short, their offers are little more than the status quo. We know that not a single graduate worker at BU is paid enough to not be rent burdened, and these counters would not change that. 

It’s time for us to come together and discuss how we can win the contract we deserve. We are calling on all members to attend our General Membership Meeting this evening where we will evaluate our organizing capacity, and then vote on the following: “I believe that negotiation thus far has failed to produce an acceptable tentative agreement, and we are sufficiently prepared as a union to call a strike authorization vote.” If this vote passes, we will have a formal strike authorization vote in the coming weeks. It is crucial for as many graduate workers as possible to attend this vote so we can gauge how people are feeling, so please tell your labmates and encourage them to join!

BUGWU General Membership Meeting

Tonight, February 15th from 5:30 - 7:30pm

GSU 228 and over Zoom

BU Admin’s Counter Proposals Summaries:

  • Compensation: Their offer includes a minimum stipend for PhD graduate workers of $42,159.07 for a 12 month stipend, and $28,106.05 for an 8 month stipend. When taking our current cost-of-living adjustment into account, this represents a 3% increase for the 2024 - 2025 academic year. For non PhD hourly workers BU is proposing an $18 / hour minimum wage. When we raised major concerns about how this offer would still leave many of us struggling to pay our rent, pay for groceries, and make ends meet, BU asserted that their wages are not based on our housing needs or the cost of living. In one of the most expensive cities in the United States, and with costs rising across the state, we remain deeply concerned with a proposal that does not protect grad workers from housing and food insecurities.  
  • Benefits: BU’s counter-proposal largely sought to maintain the status quo of our benefits, with almost no acknowledgement of our asks.
  • On healthcare, we asked for all graduate workers to be offered the student health PLUS plan at no extra cost. This plan provides more extensive coverage, with lower copays, and also allows the worker to add dependents. The administration could not confirm that they would offer the PLUS plan instead of continuing the basic coverage. Their language does state the coverage would continue to only be offered for PhD workers within the 5 year funding guarantee. For grads with dependents, this would mean continuing to pay to upgrade to the PLUS plan, and then continuing to pay to add dependents in addition. When a grad worker explained that adding dependents requires grad workers to upgrade to and pay for the PLUS plan and pay for dependents, the admin seemed unaware of this. We remain steadfast in our commitment to healthcare benefits that are inclusive to the needs of our membership.
  • On gender-affirming care within the health plan, we asked for more extensive and explicit gender-affirming care that would be pegged to the Standards of Care issued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. BU stated that they already offered extensive gender affirming care. However, the current plan under Aetna does not cover hair removal/electrolysis, facial gender affirming procedures or voice modification therapies, which we had explicitly included in our initial proposal.
  • On dental care, BU offered a voluntary plan for PhDs with guaranteed 5-year funding to opt into and pay for. Our proposal is for a dental plan for all graduate workers at no cost to the employee. We raised concerns about how this excluded non-PhD grad workers who also have dental care needs. 
  • On a vision plan, BU offered the status quo from the Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP), which provides an annual eye exam at a co-pay for $40. They also included the University’s vision discount program for eyewear, lenses, and other vision care products instead of our proposed $150 subsidy.
  • On the MBTA subsidy BU offered no change to the 11% subsidy on MBTA semester passes. They proposed a "hardship fund" (maximum $10,000 pool) that workers could apply to for MBTA summer passes, limited to grads who have a combined household income of under $50,000. We initially proposed a 50% MBTA discount to bring us in line with what faculty and staff at BU, as well as grads at other nearby institutions, are offered.
  • On parental leave BU offered no change to the current 60 days parental leave policy which is insufficient and does not work logistically with our semester system. Our proposal asks instead for one full semester of paid parental leave.
  • On childcare BU is countering with an increase on the annual childcare subsidy from $600 to $1,000 per family. While it is an increase, it fails to keep up with the cost of childcare or the childcare subsidies won by other graduate worker unions. At Brown their union negotiated for a $6,000 subsidy per child, Harvard negotiated a subsidy that averages $7,000 per child, and Columbia workers won a $4,500 subsidy per child at their table. Our proposal of $8,000 per child is based on the cost of BU’s children center which graduate student workers are encouraged to use.
  • Professional Development: BU updated their professional development counter from last month to include a funding pool of $30,000 that graduate workers could apply to for grants of up to $500 on a first-come-first-serve basis. Our proposal is for a pool of $375,000 from which graduate workers could receive grants of up to $2500.
  • Pay Day: BU’s counter on Pay Day – an article to ensure we get paid on time and weekly – has similarities to our proposal. We’ll be discussing it more in our next pre-bargaining meeting before either accepting or counterproposing.
  • Personnel Records: this is a standard clause to allow us to have access to our own disciplinary records, appointment letters, and other materials related to our employment. We welcome the university’s counter as we made this proposal in July 2023. Their counter allows them to implement this clause over the life of the contract, and makes it so that this clause is not grievable. These are two conditions that are unusual for such a common article in a contract.
  • Transitional Assistance: BU proposed transition assistance in the form of a transitional coordinator and protocol for workers who need to transition out of a lab or mentorship relationship, including funding for up to one full semester. BU’s proposal currently excludes non-PhD workers. 

BUGWU’s Counter Proposals Summaries:

At our last bargaining session, management presented counter-proposals for the Joint Labor Management Committee and Appointments articles. We asked clarifying questions around the language in the contract. We feel we are close to reaching a Tentative Agreement on JLMC once the final edits are integrated, and we are currently drafting a counter-proposal for Appointments. 

What is next in our fight for a fair contract?

  1. We’ll see you tonight at the General Membership Meeting from 5:30 - 7:30pm. Here’s our link for Zoom and we’ll be gathering in GSU 228.
  2. BU has requested for another bargaining session tomorrow, February 16, starting at 2pm. We responded that a majority of our Bargaining Team has research or teaching obligations at that time, but that we will send a small group of Bargaining Team members to receive any counter proposals they have. If you would like to join RSVP here.

Thanks for reading!

= Updates

🎉 = Victory

Do you or someone you know have any interest in helping to create & edit this newsletter? Getting involved is easy, with no commitment level required. Everyone is welcome; we’re happy to have all the help we can get! Just search for the #communications-team channel in the BUGWU slack. (Not on the BUGWU slack? Reach out to any union rep to join!)