Bargaining Updates

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Bargaining News


  • Ombuds confesses that late pay and abusive advisors are a consistent problem for graduate workers and that the ombuds have no real authority to address them.
  • Hopkins admin still refuses to include many protected classes in our non-discrimination proposal
  • After 4 months, admin finally returned a counter on International Employee Rights but struck out the most important protections
  • Join us at your division’s next meeting to plan our collective response. RSVP and details at

Dear fellow graduate workers, 

Admin started off the session by bringing the University ombudsperson, Annalisa Peterson, to speak with our Bargaining Committee this afternoon. The ombudsperson is meant to be a “neutral, third-party” resource for doctoral students in addressing conflict. The Bargaining Committee questioned her on how well she thinks existing policies protect grads.

When asked what enforcement mechanisms the ombuds office has for the various issues that come to them, Peterson clarified that she has no authority whatsoever beyond supporting the “the self-determination of the visitor” meaning that the student must pursue their own resolution.

When she revealed that one of the major issues she has heard from PhD workers for years is late-pay, management nodded vigorously, acknowledging that they have been aware of late-pay issues for years. It is unfortunate management has done nothing to address the issue, nor have they agreed to address this widespread issue in our contract. 

The committee pressed on, asking what recurring issues the ombuds office has heard brought up. The ombudsperson said there are “constantly recurring issues around navigating limited options when faced with a power dynamic when your future career is dependent on your advisor….there is the practical reality of the difficulty of preventing retaliation.” Admin continues to use existing mechanisms like the ombuds office as a means to deflect real accountability and recourse for the issues they know graduate workers have been facing for years. 

Next, BC presented counters on Discipline and Discharge and Workload. The BC brought up, once again, that workers require protection from unjust discharge in the form of retaliation. To this, the lead negotiator for Hopkins stated, “If you have issues with the current process, we want to hear them, of course, but not at a table in front of a million people, bring it up to the provost’s office individually. Fundamentally, Hopkins needs to decide who gets to get a degree, not an arbitrator.” The negotiator even went as far as saying they were not opposed to having union representation in these closed-door conversations, and that “[previously] students did not have an advocate in the form of a union.” It is clear that they understand the necessity of our unionization and yet refuse to cede any real power for workers to have agency over work conditions.

JHU does not want public accountability for the abusive behaviors of their faculty and would rather deal with us behind closed doors where they are not bound by a contract to provide us the recourse we deserve. 

Admin presented us counters on Non-Discrimination, Harassment, and No Retaliation, Inclusive Work Environment, and Public Safety, the latter of which they returned to us as “Miscellaneous Provisions.”

In their counter to Non-Discrimination, Harassment, and No Retaliation, admin rejected protections for classes including family status, caregiver status, caste, ancestry, political affiliation, arrest records, HIV antibody status, and many more. They justified these deletions by saying they are not “legally codified or defined” classes and they don’t want to “amend the CBA every time new ordinances around protected classes by the state are passed.” They also maintained that grad workers should submit a complaint with the Office of Institutional Equity before seeking any grievance procedure complaints relevant to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. They continue to reject provisions to pursue arbitration in cases of sexual misconduct by insisting that Title IX processes are sufficient. 

In their counter to Inclusive Work Environment, among many deletions, they did not accept the usage of preferred pronouns, refused to provide menstrual products in bathrooms (stating that would be a “burden on the university”), and denied that grad workers and faculty should have equal access to childcare

In one of their silliest moves to date, after the union pressured admin to meaningfully respond to the Public Safety proposal, they returned to us their version of a counter, renamed to “Miscellaneous Provisions” and pared down to one sentence stating workers maintain the right to peacefully demonstrate and protest as long as we don’t violate University policies (which are subject to change at the University’s sole discretion).

Later, our BC presented counters on Health and Safety, Union Security and Check-Off, and Management Rights

Notably, at the end of today’s session, after 4 months, we finally received the University’s underwhelming response to the International Employee Rights article. The University struck out language that would prohibit them from sharing information about international workers with the Department of Homeland Security. In its continued dismissal of discrimination, the University also struck out international workers’ right not to be held or arrested by JHU campus security on the basis of immigration status alone. In presenting these changes, the negotiator even stated that these issues were “not worth discussing.”

The University continues to impose hypocritical standards to evade any accountability by acknowledging the conditions that required us to unionize and in the same breath refusing to provide any real protections for those conditions. During our recent General Membership Meeting earlier this week, 300 members strategized together on how to escalate our pressure on Hopkins such that they take our demands for workplace rights seriously. The only way the administration will move is when YOU show up! Join your division in planning the next stage of the contract fight and RSVP here for your divisional meeting. 

You can look at the specific language of these articles at our Bargaining Tracker.

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee


  • Our bargaining committee signed Tentative Agreements on Recognition and Professional Rights, ensuring that all PhD workers will benefit from our contract and securing our IP rights and our right to request to change research supervisors.
  • Management asked us to trade union shop, a crucial part of maintaining our union’s strength, for an expansive set of management rights that undermine nearly all protections our contract would provide.
  • Join us at our General Membership Meeting on September 26 to hear the next steps in our fight for key protections! RSVP at

Dear fellow graduate workers, 

We signed two Tentative Agreements today: Recognition and Professional Rights. Recognition ensures that all PhD workers who receive any pay or benefits from Hopkins will benefit from our contract! In Professional Rights, we won many vital rights for graduate workers including:

  • The right to be notified of any changes in work location;
  • The right to request remote/hybrid work as needed;
  • The right to have regular meetings with our supervisors;
  • The same intellectual property rights as faculty and authorship rights;
  • The right to request to switch research supervisors. 

We also received counterproposals on Workload, Appointment Security, Health and Safety, Union Security, and Management Rights in which the administration tried to undermine the strength of our contract. 

The University believes that graduate workers should not be guaranteed safety protections in our workplace. We proposed that Johns Hopkins “maintain policies and procedures which ensure a safe workplace” and “take reasonable steps to proactively ensure employee health and safety.” The Hopkins administration struck out these demands. They are refusing to correct dangerous working conditions in a timely manner or provide free access to recommended medications and immunizations when traveling internationally. They also continue to block any return to common-sense preventative measures for COVID-19, like offering free masks and PCR testing.

The Union Security and Management Rights articles were delivered to us as a package deal. Union Security is key to the entire contract; it ensures that every eligible Ph.D. worker remains a part of the union, thus maintaining our collective strength in future negotiations. Management gave us a watered-down version of our Union Security in exchange for a built-up version of their Management Rights article. In addition to claiming they have the right “to select all insurance carriers and to change carriers from time to time” and to create or change any and all policies that apply to graduate workers, the administration made it clear that they intend to continue imposing their power on graduate workers with no limitations, stating: “The above enumeration of management and academic rights is not exhaustive and does not exclude other management and academic rights specified above.”

We can only see progress on these sticking points when everyone is engaged and involved. To help us fight for a better Johns Hopkins, come to our General Member Meeting on Tuesday, September 26 from 6-7 PM on both campuses and on Zoom. Please RSVP at and bring a friend!

You can look at the specific language of these articles at our Bargaining Tracker.

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee


  • The administration arrived nearly 1 hour late to a 3-hour bargaining session.
  • Management still maintains that teaching and research that fulfill “degree requirements” are not work and should not be protected in our contract.
  • The administration also insists that we should have no right to grieve being fired as a result of academic performance.
  • Join us at our General Membership Meeting on September 26 to hear more about bargaining and help fight for our workplace rights! RSVP at

Dear fellow graduate workers, 

Yesterday’s bargaining session began with more disrespect from the Hopkins administration. They arrived 51 minutes late to the bargaining session, which was only scheduled to be 3 hours long.

Once they finally arrived, we returned proposals on Management Rights and Scope of Agreement to the administration, and they gave us counters on Workload, Professional Rights, and Discipline and Discharge.

In the Workload article, Hopkins continues to try to deny that teaching and research are work. Instead, they push for all teaching required by our academic programs and any research that contributes to our degree to be excluded from reasonable work-hour limits—or any other protections afforded by our contract. The administration claims that these requirements are academic in nature and thus, outside the scope of the contract.

They attempted to limit our rights further in the Discipline and Discharge article. Though they agreed that academic decisions can’t be used to retaliate against graduate workers, they also made an effort to remove any recourse we might have in those decisions. The Hopkins administration proposed that our union should have “no right to interfere or grieve decisions regarding academic performance, academic discipline, or student conduct policy violations,” including those that would affect our employment. They specifically emphasize this in an example: “The loss of employment by dismissal or expulsion resulting from an academic or student misconduct proceeding is outside the scope of the [contract] and is not grievable.” 

Meanwhile, Hopkins proposed that they should be able to impose more severe types of discipline at their discretion and refused to agree to notify international students in advance of any disciplinary action that might affect their visa status. 

By continuing to try to weaken our union’s ability to advocate for graduate workers, these counter proposals make clear that the University knows if our union is strong, our workplace rights will be protected.

We will return to the bargaining table tomorrow afternoon to continue to fight for real protections for all graduate workers through our contract.

Excited to help us protect our workplace rights? Sign your union card today to show Johns Hopkins that we are united in wanting a great contract, come to our General Member Meeting on Tuesday, September 26 at 6 PM, and read the full text of the articles we mentioned above on our Bargaining Tracker.

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee


  • Our Bargaining Committee gave management 6 counterproposals and only received 2 in return, despite having a month to prepare since our last bargaining session. 
  • We won the right to request switching supervisors. Each department will be required to have a process in place to do so.
  • Management maintains that they will not bargain over the JHPD, even though they acknowledge that it impacts our workplace safety.
  • We will discuss next steps at our CAT meeting on September 12th. RSVP here!

Dear fellow graduate workers, 

We had our first bargaining session with management in almost a month. Our Bargaining Committee gave counterproposals on Workload, Appointment Security, Professional Rights, Non-Discrimination, Harassment, and No Retaliation, Inclusive Work Environment, and Health and Safety. 

On the other hand, management only gave the union two counterproposals: Management and Academic Rights, and Scope of Agreement. These two proposals were originally proposed by management to outline their unilateral rights. Hopkins administration believes that they should be able to:

  • Select, and change, insurance carriers at will with no feedback from the union;
  • Take unilateral actions during public health emergencies;
  • Be the sole authority over academic standards, including conflicts about grades and oral exams;
  • Control all matters affecting financial aid, which may include the opportunity to take away financial aid packages at will;
  • Take away the ability to file grievances about decisions concerning all of the above; and finally
  • Assign themselves new rights on an ad-hoc basis, essentially nullifying the rest of our contract.

This proposed article would severely weaken our union and the ability to advocate for our members. We intend to keep fighting back at the bargaining table and through our Contract Action Team.

We got closer on Article 15, Professional Rights. We saw movement from management when they agreed that Ph.D. workers have the right to request to switch their supervisors.

We used the rest of our time to engage management on issues related to Public Safety. We reminded management that Public Safety continues to be a priority for the union and requested a meeting with Branville Bard Jr., Vice President for Public Safety. We asked management questions regarding our rights to protest and assemble, policies that allow guns on campus and in our workplaces, and the ability of the University to surveil its workers, among others. After being questioned repeatedly on why they have refused to meaningfully negotiate with the union on public safety, the university’s lawyer stated, “We are not going to agree to limiting any policing or security that we deem necessary to ensure the safety of our facilities….. [long pause] and people.

We will return to the bargaining table with management next week, with sessions on Tuesday morning and Thursday afternoon. You can see the language of each of the articles mentioned above on our Bargaining Tracker.

Ready to get involved? Sign your union card today, and join us at our CAT (Contract Action Team) meeting on Tuesday, September 12th at 6 PM on both campuses and online.

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

Written Update Bargaining Session #14

August 11, 2023


  • We heard disappointing presentations from various JHU offices
  • We presented a counter proposal on Discipline and Discharge that would increase protections for grads in cases of academic discipline 
  • Admin struck out our Non-Retaliation language entirely, and struck out most of Non-Discrimination, adding language to merely refer to university policies
  • Admin mostly struck our language for Health and Safety, but did include adhering to OSHA minimums
  • Admin struck language that was more protective of an inclusive work environment, wants to implement the federal minimums
  • We established that graduate workers receive the same IP rights as faculty and can grieve authorship concerns
  • We will discuss next steps at our CAT meeting tomorrow, August 15. RSVP here!

On Friday, the bargaining committee heard from the Office of Student Conduct; the Department of Health, Safety, and Environment; the Office of Research Integrity; and the Office of Institutional Equity. Contrary to the administration’s hope, these presentations only disrespectfully made the case that JHU’s existing channels for addressing concerns around discrimination, discipline, misconduct, safety, harassment, and more are wholly failing graduate workers across the university.

The Office of Student Conduct first explained existing (and blatantly inadequate) procedures for handling grievances, wherein agreeing to an informal resolution waives the right to a formal process and an appeal. This office sees fewer than 5 PhD students a year, and it is not apparent how this office is relevant to our contract. 

We then heard from JHU’s Department of Health, Safety, and Environment (HSE).The presenter stated plainly that “University leadership provides resources and influences employees and students to achieve organizational safety goals,” without any mention of regular and rigorous enforcement and protections that we are bargaining for. He also admitted that HSE relies substantially on department managers and supervisors as “the keystone of the entire safety program,” and that workers reporting unsafe conditions is the only way to deal with safety concerns. When we mentioned workers are often fearful of academic retaliation for reporting unsafe working environments, admin only repeated the importance of reporting and that retaliation “shouldn’t happen.” 

We then listened to a presentation from the Office of Research Integrity (ORI) at the School of Medicine. In discussing the procedure of how research integrity cases are handled by her office, the presenter stated that a committee of one individual decides whether cases constitute credible allegations, and that in most cases, processes take so long that graduate students leave before resolution. The presenter also shared that she has “only seen two grad students come through [ORI] in the past.” How JHU’s research misconduct processes are supposedly “already sufficient” is not apparent to the Bargaining Committee.

We finally heard from the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), which has been cited by many graduate workers as inadequate in addressing discrimination and harassment-related concerns at JHU. In their presentation, we learned that 72% of cases brought to OIE “resolve without ever becoming a case” and less than 10% even lead to investigations. We were even given a quiz to answer the question “What factors does OIE consider when determining whether harassment has occurred?” We felt generally disrespected after being told about how OIE is generally only able to make strong recommendations in many cases of wrongdoing. From OIE: “If [the offender] is a person we haven’t dealt with before, I won’t press as hard. If it’s a ‘Frequent Flyer,’ I’m going to press harder on that department to make sure they follow through.”

We insisted the presenters acknowledge the gross inadequacy of their office’s response to cases. OIE presenters disclosed that they wished certain cases could move faster and be dealt with more effectively. When OIE admits that they wish they could do their job better, how OIE could be a viable alternative to protections in a contract is not apparent to the Bargaining Committee.

Our BC members were justifiably upset with admin’s overall continued insistence that we should use existing policies and simply bring particular cases to them to fix. As we all know, these issues are systemic and not representative of just a handful of graduate workers at the University, whose concerns have still not been solved through existing channels. In one Bargaining Committee member’s words: “Telling us to trust you and ‘just share information with us and we’ll fix it’? That time is done. That trust is gone.”

After these presentations that took up several hours of the morning, we presented our counter on Discipline and Discharge. We maintained our position that academic discipline protections and procedures, the primary route through which JHU graduate workers are disciplined, should be written into our contract. When we brought up, again, that workers can be easily dismissed by advisors and thus protections are necessary, JHU’s lawyer stated: “No advisor can remove a student from a PhD program.” We categorically disagreed, and thus continue fighting for academic discipline protections in our contract.

Management ended the long day by finally presenting 5 counter proposals on 

  • Workload
  • Health and safety
  • Inclusive work environments
  • Professional rights
  • Nondiscrimination and non retaliation. 

Notably, admin accepted language in our contract guaranteeing that grad workers will have the same intellectual property rights as faculty and staff, and language which will provide recourse to grad workers who are excluded as authors on work to which they’ve contributed. 

In their Health and Safety counter, admin also explicitly accepted language that “the University shall maintain policies and procedures consistent with applicable workplace health and safety standards, such as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards…” This will finally allow workers to grieve health and safety issues in their working environments. 

We were only able to achieve these wins because our members have been applying much needed pressure on the University to take our concerns seriously and place protections into a collective bargaining agreement. 

We must stand together as we continue the fight for better working conditions, to show the administration that we will not tolerate anything less than a strong and fair contract.

We will resume bargaining for our rights at the table in September. In the meantime, RSVP here to join us for our next Contract Action Team (CAT) meeting tomorrow (August 15th) where we’ll go over additional bargaining updates, and plan for orientation events. We look forward to seeing you there!

In strength and solidarity,

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

Screenshot of the particularly egregious quiz 

Written Update Bargaining Session #13

August 08, 2023


  • Administration still does not have a plan for Hampton House employee relocation
  • We presented 3 counters on Workload, Professional Rights, and Health and Safety
  • Administration stated graduate workers’ IP rights are already adequate
  • Contract Action Team meeting next Tuesday, August 15:

Dear fellow graduate worker,

The administration invited the co-chair of the Hampton House relocation committee to relay information about the closing of Hampton House, Cooley Center, and Reed Hall. This information was notably vague and left a lot of questions unanswered. The co-chair noted that affected employees will be relocated to various locations on and off-campus, both together and separate from fellow workers and faculty in their departments. Though they touted substantial collaborative efforts in developing this committee, graduate workers whose offices will presumably be shared with those relocated are notably not represented on this committee. The committee plans to make relocation-related documents and presentations available internally to School of Public Health graduate workers soon. 

No meaningful updates on the Cooley Center demolition were provided.

We presented counterproposals on three articles: Workload, Professional Rights, and a slightly updated version of Health and Safety. We did not receive any counterproposals from JHU Management today. The administration maintains that the content of these articles is sufficiently covered by existing JHU policies and does not belong in our contract. They also stated that graduate workers’ intellectual property rights are adequate as they exist today.

We’ll be reconvening at the bargaining table on Friday, August 11th to continue fighting for our rights. Finally, everyone is welcome at our Contract Action Team meeting on Tuesday, August 15th:

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee 

Written Update Bargaining Session #12

August 03, 2023


  • Workers from East Baltimore demonstrated our strength as we demanded to bargain over the Hampton House and Cooley Center demolition.
  • The administration insists that, unlike faculty, we don’t deserve IP rights for our work.
  • We reached a tentative agreement with the admin on appointment letters!

Dear fellow graduate worker,

We kicked off bargaining today with a massive showing of East Baltimore graduate workers to voice how the demolition of Hampton House and the Cooley Center has affected them. They informed the administration that it is unacceptable to have no centralized plan to relocate the Hampton House departments, which are now forced to find new spaces individually.

We then demanded the right to bargain over the changes to work conditions imposed by Hopkins due to their decision. Some of our asks are:

  • A written plan detailing new satisfactory work locations for affected workers
  • Ability to request remote work without punishment and internet subsidies to offset increased home internet use
  • Access to the Homewood gym and a $100/month stipend to use on health and wellness

We also reached a tentative agreement on Appointment Letters. This requires the university to provide each worker with a written letter outlining the terms of employment. This includes workplace responsibilities, pay schedules, benefits, and compensation.

This is an important win. Workers will be empowered to hold Hopkins accountable to the work requirements specified in the letter. We also won the ability for workers to individually discuss the terms of their appointment letters with a union steward present, giving workers more power over their labor. 

The administration presented a counter to our proposed article on Professional Rights. Interestingly, the counter eliminated our proposal that the Union be notified of any projects affecting our work environments, a proposal we presented directly in response to the Hampton House demolition. In this same article, we also asked for the same IP rights as faculty and staff, and we included an authorship section enshrining every grad worker’s right to get the credit for their work. The administration rejected both sections completely. We will continue to fight for better rights regarding the work we do.

We’ll be reconvening at the bargaining table next week on August 8th and 11th. 

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee 

Written Update Bargaining Session #11

August 02, 2023


  • After nearly two months of inaction by administration, we finally received a response on our workload article.
  • We went through another round of proposals for the Appointment Notification article.
  • Workers are organizing a response to building demolition on E. Baltimore campus. RSVP to join us in our response during bargaining tomorrow!

Dear fellow graduate worker,

After nearly two months of inaction by administration, we finally received a response on our workload article. It’s no coincidence that admin brought this proposal, which they initially rejected, after our most recent day of action. 

  • We are making progress on capping the required number of working hours.
  • However, admin is still under the delusion that research and teaching do not constitute “work.”

We went through another round of proposals for the Appointment Notification article.

  • Admin agreed to our timelines for adjusting appointment letters.
  • We proposed more details about the requirements of the appointment letter for teaching appointments.

We read a testimonial from a graduate worker who was initially denied coverage and forced to pay all expenses out of pocket due to the recent insurance changes. We know this is not an isolated incident but rather is indicative of the University’s inability to adequately provide healthcare for its workers. As a result of these ill-managed changes to our healthcare, we demanded that Hopkins establish a hotline for workers to call with questions about all our insurance and benefits. We will continue to fight for improvements to our insurance and benefits in the economic negotiations.

Finally, add your name HERE to an open letter demanding the administration bargain with grad workers over immediate solutions to the loss of Cooley Center and Hampton House, especially for workspaces and gym facilities that are satisfactory to grad workers. If you are interested in attending the bargaining session tomorrow to deliver the letter, please see this form.

We’ll be reconvening for our next session tomorrow, August 3. 

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee 


  • We reached a tentative agreement on our grievance procedure article! This is a strong win for our union as it allows us to legally enforce the terms of our contract.
  • We won the ability to file a work-related grievance that involves sexual harassment for up to 1 year after any incident through our grievance procedure.
  • JHU holds firm on its nonsensical No Strike/No Lockout clause. Our pressure reduced some of their most severe language, but as it stands, this clause severely limits and seeks to punish any public support of or participation in work stoppages.
  • Workers are organizing a response to building demolition on E. Baltimore campus. Sign the open letter here

Dear Fellow Graduate Workers,

We had an incredible win in today’s bargaining session. Our union secured a strong grievance procedure article!! 

  • We WON the ability to file a work-related grievance that involves sexual harassment for up to 1 year after any incident through our own grievance procedure!
  • This victory comes after a weeks-long struggle, during which the JHU bargaining committee initially proposed no extended timeline for sexual-harassment/ assault-related extenuating circumstances. In a callous attempt to discredit survivors, they claimed a prolonged timeline for the aggrieved to file a grievance would result in false accusations since “memories may fade.”
  • Despite their resistance, we pushed JHU towards the resolution we deserve.

We spent much of the day working on a counter proposal to JHU’s appointment letter article, making significant progress. 

  • Appointment letters will help us avoid the all-too-familiar situation of being asked to perform duties well outside the scope of our responsibilities.
  • We are negotiating worker protections when professional duties and responsibilities are unclear or change suddenly.

JHU returned their counter on the No Strike, No Lockout Article

  • Good news! They pared down their laundry list of restrictions and punishments from 3 pages to 1 page! However, this remaining page still does not meet our demands to protect our right to strike over specific grievances and significantly restricts our ability to organize even outside a strike.
  • Leveraging our labor is the ultimate power we hold as workers. JHU knows this and is threatened by this. 
  • We will continue to fight back against their ridiculous assault on our power and infringement of our basic rights of expression.

On July 10, JHU informed workers on the East Baltimore campus of their unilateral decision to demolish Hampton House, Reed Hall and the Cooley Center. There is no plan to relocate the affected members of our union to new workspaces. There is also no plan to provide adequate wellness resources to grad workers who relied on the Cooley Center. Even department chairs only received a few days’ notice.

Since we voted overwhelmingly for our union, JHU must consult grad workers before changing our working conditions. Continuing to circumvent our union is unacceptable and illegal. By coming together, we can demonstrate to the administration that this pattern of behavior has to stop.

Add your name HERE to an open letter demanding the administration bargain with grad workers over immediate solutions to the loss of Cooley Center and grad workspaces that are satisfactory to grad workers. If you are interested in attending the bargaining session to deliver the letter, please see this form

We’ll be reconvening for our next sessions on August 2 and 3 next week. 

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee


  • MIT, Northwestern, UChicago, and Dartmouth teamed up with JHU to fight for union shop across our fellow higher ed unions.
  • Management has agreed to our extended timelines for filing sexual assault and harrassment grievances, and heard our voices on Monday’s Day of Action!
  • Management proposed another ridiculously restrictive No Strike/No Lockout clause which impedes basic free speech rights. 
  • Follow along on the Bargaining Tracker here.

We started our bargaining session this morning with a visit from fellow UE members from MIT, Northwestern, University of Chicago, and Dartmouth. These members spoke about the importance of having a union shop, in which all PhD workers at JHU are automatically enrolled into our union. A union shop means a stronger union and more time spent advocating for our members rather than recruiting members to join the union. 

Johns Hopkins gave us responses on:

JHU recently announced the demolition of Hampton House, Reed Hall, and the Cooley Center on the East Baltimore Campus, displacing hundreds of members of the JHU community. However, today management had the audacity to propose giving only “reasonable efforts” to provide notice when workspaces are relocated. We are actively working to address this situation and prevent further incursions to our workplaces.

We are still fighting for our workers to have an adequate mechanism for reporting sexual harassment and sexual assault. We have heard from you all, repeatedly, about how broken the system is. JHU initially proposed a maximum of 60 days to report any workplace incidents where sexual harassment is an extenuating circumstance, stating that “memories fade” and that there will be concerns about the accuracy of accusations. However, we fought back, and have won a concession that extended the timeline to 1 year. We fully expect to reach a tentative agreement on our grievance procedure soon.

Management delivered an appalling counter proposal on our No Strike/No Lockout article. JHU’s proposal states that they can seek “injunctive relief, including a temporary restraining order…” for workers who wish to speak out against the university by engaging in or condoning a work slowdown/stoppage, “or any other economic action of whatsoever nature.”

This is counter to JHU’s own Academic Freedom policy, which states, “Academic freedom protects the right to speak and create, to question and dissent, to participate in debate on and off campus, and to invite others to do the same, all without fear of restraint or penalty…Our university is committed to the steadfast protection of the right to academic freedom.” We think it is time JHU begins to demonstrate their claimed values, rather than simply write them in a policy book.

Our next bargaining session will be this Thursday, July 27th at 10AM. We look forward to continuing to fight for the rights of all workers at Johns Hopkins.

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee


  • JHU holds firm against non-discrimination, health and safety, and international worker rights. Refuses to give counters after one-month hiatus.
  • We reached tentative agreements on Union Rights and Bargaining Unit Information! These articles give us resources and protect our right to communicate with our members.
  • We will continue to fight for workplace rights and democracy together!

Dear Fellow Graduate Workers,

After a one-month hiatus, JHU was unexpectedly on time for a bargaining session, and we kicked off today at 10 AM. Given that JHU had over one month to prepare for this session, we were prepared to negotiate over a wide range of important issues, including health and safety, nondiscrimination, and our grievance procedure, the last of which only required coming to an agreement on one paragraph. Unfortunately, the administration did not use their month off to produce counter proposals on any of these issues, only opting to write their one paragraph counter on grievance procedures during lunch after we applied pressure in the morning. Given that this one paragraph concerned the handling of sexual misconduct against graduate workers, it is particularly egregious that JHU did not view this paragraph as sufficiently important to address during the one-month window they had to do so.

Fortunately, JHU was willing to move on some issues today, and we were ultimately able to reach tentative agreements on union rights and bargaining unit information. These articles secure our union as an institution, and enshrine our ability to communicate with our members. They include provisions allowing the union to present material at recruitment events and orientations, access to a mailing list to communicate with members, guarantee meeting space to hold union meetings, among many other important resources to keep our union running! You can read the final tentative agreements linked in our bargaining tracker!  

After lunch, we were presented with a hastily thrown together proposal on grievance procedures that would not adequately protect graduate workers who are victims of sexual misconduct, which we countered with stronger language of our own. Finally, we were presented with a counter proposal on Appointment Notification which would substantially weaken the ability of graduate workers to individually negotiate appointment offers. It seems that JHU finds individuals bargaining for better pay and working conditions almost as distasteful as they find unions collectively bargaining for the same.

            Today’s session reminds us that without action there will be no contract. We were only able to make what gains we did todaybecause of your commitment to better working conditions for all graduate workers, and your willingness to act on that commitment. As we continue into some of the hardest fights of this bargaining process over critical issues like international worker rights, health and safety, and nondiscrimination, we know that with your organized and committed action, we can move this administration and win the contract we all deserve.

Our next bargaining sessions will be July 25th and 27th. This Saturday, July 22, at 1 pm in Patterson Park, we will also be having a community BBQ and picnic so come out with your friends and family and enjoy some music and solidarity!

In strength and solidarity, 

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee


  • Made progress on Union Rights and Bargaining Unit Information
  • JHU Admin maintains that academic discipline and discharge do not belong in a bargaining agreement
  • Bargaining will continue in July

As in previous sessions, JHU administration were 45 minutes late to bargaining today, signaling that they would continue to be unreasonable during this negotiation process. We brought back three counter proposals to our morning session and submitted a fourth in the afternoon. 

The administration’s response to our proposals was lackluster. In responding to our proposal about appointment letters, Hopkins’s lead negotiator claimed it is impossible to tell Teaching Assistants what class they will be teaching more than two months in advance. This is despite the fact that courses are currently scheduled through January 2024. The lead negotiator also confessed that “[the appointment] letters are not going to be written by the individual faculty member” for whom an employee will work. These comments seem to suggest the administration is refusing to recognize the intent of these proposals.

In their counter proposal on Discipline and Discharge, JHU once again refused to accept that discipline and discharge happens primarily at the academic level, affects our employment, and is subject to bargaining. As they stated, “This will continue to be an area of contention.” In our words, academics is our job, Hopkins is our workplace, and this is a union matter.

Disappointingly, the administration did not present counter proposals on grievance procedure and non-discrimination, despite especially constructive conversations on the former article. All articles being negotiated can be viewed in our Bargaining Tracker.

We will continue bargaining later in July. In the meantime, we are excited to keep having energizing conversations with fellow graduate workers about what we can win together and how we can do it. Sign up here to join the Contract Action Team or to give a testimonial at a future bargaining session! 

In strength and solidarity,

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee


  • 15 grad workers joined the bargaining session today and gave powerful testimonials about how University grievance procedures and non-discrimination policies have deeply failed them, harmed them and put them at increased risk.
  • The University’s only and extremely insensitive response was: We hear you, we care about this, but we disagree on these procedures having a place in the collective bargaining agreement.
  • Because of the powerful stories of our fellow grad workers, we made significant progress on the Grievance and Arbitration Procedure and Training/Professional Development!
  • See the bargaining tracker to follow along!

In today’s bargaining session the administration was forced to reckon with the failures of the University’s grievance and non-discrimination procedures. This morning, 15 grad workers provided testimonials on issues of harassment, retaliation, disrespect, abuse, sexual assault, and working in dangerous and many times life threatening conditions. The message was clear:  These are not unique problems of a few workers. These problems are widely felt systemic issues that University’s existing procedures have time and time again provided no real recourse for.

Our members shared stories of abusive advisors who jeopardized students’ academic standing, in many situations forcing them out of the program; workers made to do research in extremely dangerous lab environments who suffered devastating effects on their physical and mental health; workers who showed up every day to hostile environments where they endured racist and derogatory comments; workers forced to postpone important medical procedures because the University was not willing to make accommodations for their teaching appointments; workers forced to relive again and again the trauma of sexual assault due to ineffective accountability procedures. One graduate worker recounted their experience with the grievance procedure and their unsafe workspace:

“The administration’s belief that existing grievance procedures are sufficient is going to get someone killed; I literally was electrocuted, exposed to toxic metal powders without a respirator, and told that this is my problem to deal with, with zero recourse… I stand with the Union in their desire to place the safety of graduate workers above the profit and egos of program managers.

And these are just some of the various modes of harm our peers face under the University’s existing inadequate policies.

The University’s response to these testimonials was short. “We may disagree that the Collective Bargaining Agreement is the forum is to address some of these things, but that does not mean that the University does not care about them.”

The University continues to deny the truth: that existing policy is insufficient and in fact perpetuates harm. This makes even more clear that despite administration’s empty claims of caring about graduate worker issues, graduate workers need proper protections that prevent abuse and unsafe conditions and a grievance procedure that is able to meaningfully address harm.

Even as the administration verbally refused to codify our rights to safety, respect, and recourse in our workplace, your presence in the room was felt. The power of our members’ testimonials enabled us to accomplish significant wins on multiple articles in the contract. 

We came to a tentative agreement on Article 14, Training/Professional Development and secured professional development leaves up to 12 months and a guarantee of full funding for all required trainings!

Today after weeks of bargaining, we are now much closer to securing a clear and uniform Grievance Procedure for all that protects graduate workers rather than the university’s reputation. We successfully pushed JHU to agree to the majority of our proposed grievance process, including the right to have a Union steward present at all steps of the process, the right to third-party arbitration, and up to 45 days to file a grievance, an exciting win since most unions only have a couple weeks!

Currently, the administration is still waffling on whether sexual assault should be included in a collective bargaining agreement as a grievable offence and continues to refer to existing Title IX policies as the only possible avenue of redress. We know that this process has historically failed workers and will continue to fight back to force them to recognize that sexual assault is a serious transgression that requires recourse beyond Title IX.

Our next bargaining session will be on 6/20! We are excited to continue to fight together for the dignity and protections that we all deserve. This movement would not have been possible without our strong Contract Action Team that came together the bring in powerful testimonials and build pressure that moved JHU to accept more of our terms. Sign up here to join the Contract Action Team or to give a testimonial at a future bargaining session! 

In strength and solidarity,

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee


  • We reached a tentative agreement for Article 11 (Appointment Duties)
  • We continue to fight for effective grievance procedures, anti-harassment, and non-discrimination protections
  • Sign up to give a testimonial HERE

Dear fellow graduate worker,

We successfully concluded our 5th bargaining session today. We reached another tentative agreement on the subject of appointment duties. This article grants us the right to turn down work that does not fall within the expected duties outlined in our appointment letters, and protects us against doing work solely for the personal benefit of any supervisor at Hopkins. This tentative agreement is a significant win, and allows us to focus on the teaching and research we came here to do.

We continue to work on other important issues. Management insists that their existing policies are sufficient to handle harassment, discrimination, and bullying, and that the contract needs no serious provisions to address these topics. However, according to our bargaining priorities survey, only 26% of grad workers would be confident reporting discrimination or harassment through current mechanisms. In their non-discrimination counter proposal, management merely makes pithy statements of solidarity to assure graduate workers that discrimination is taken seriously at the University. We know, however, that this is not the case. 

We continue our fight on June 8th at 10 AM. If you would like to give a testimonial at a future session about your experiences with JHU’s ineffective grievance procedures, non-discrimination policies, and unsafe work environments, you can sign up HERE.

You can see the exact language of all articles that we’re negotiating on our bargaining tracker HERE.

In Strength and Solidarity, 

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee


  • Management showed up 20 minutes late without previous notice.
  • First 3 tentative agreements were signed today (general agreement between TRU and JHU, legal provisions of contract, and modification of contract language).
  • Our next session is tomorrow at 10 AM at BSPH W1030.

Today marked our 4th bargaining session with JHU. The day started with JHU admin arriving 20 minutes late to the room, dragging their feet before finally walking through the SPH hallways filled with your presence and beautiful posters. 

We signed our first three tentative agreements today. These agreements codify that our contract exists between JHU and TRU, cannot be altered except by written agreement, and is subject to legal provisions. You can see the exact language of all the articles we’re negotiating on our bargaining tracker HERE.

We received additional counter proposals from JHU today. This includes the obstinate refusal of including academic matters in the contract. These counter proposals also include the creation of a “Labor-Management Committee,” which is JHU’s attempt to avoid following the proposed grievance procedures. 

JHU also proposed weak non-discrimination and harassment protections that try to redirect workers to already-existing ineffective mechanisms. According to Shannon Farmer, lead JHU negotiator, “The University has existing policies and legal obligations that exist outside of the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement]. We don’t think it’s necessary to include these in the CBA.” We continue to fight for a grievance procedure and non-discrimination rights that don’t risk excluding important groups of people.

In addition, JHU finally presented language stating the future provision of appointment letters. Appointment letters protect workers from conducting business that is outside the scope of their academic, research, teaching, and service endeavors. We look forward to reaching agreements on graduate workers getting official appointment letters for the first time.

We continue bargaining tomorrow at 10am in SPH. We’re excited to continue working together and to show the administration that we deserve a strong union and basic rights. Join us by signing up to provide testimonials for an upcoming bargaining session HERE.

In strength and solidarity, 

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee 

05/19/2023 – Grad Workers Fight Back With Our Voice

Yesterday during our second bargaining session, the administration flat out rejected many of the proposals that represent the foundation for why we formed a union. The administration outrageously claimed that non-discrimination policies, health and safety policies, public safety concerns, and the vast majority of international workers rights “do not belong in a collective bargaining agreement.” As your bargaining committee, we voiced your anger towards the administration’s stance. The effect was felt during today’s session.

Due to your righteously furious responses, the university began to change their tune and said that they will bring written counter-proposals about non-discrimination policies to our next session. While the administration has not yet committed to negotiating with our initial positions on many proposals, including workload and appointment security, your directed anger and organized action has opened the door for all of us to win a contract with strong and fair provisions on non-discrimination. Administration also made small but meaningful concessions on union rights today, allowing us to reach one new tentative agreement.

Your voices allowed us to make progress today. However, there are still many critical issues that the administration does not want to negotiate on, and it will require organized action to force the movement we need. Throughout bargaining, you can view our proposals and JHU’s counter-proposals at (this page). If you are interested in observing or giving a testimonial during bargaining, you can sign up to do so here. We are excited to fight alongside you for the rights we deserve as workers.

In strength and solidarity,

The TRU-UE Bargaining Team

TL;DR: Johns Hopkins completely denies that we are workers. They delivered insulting non-economic counter proposals that explicitly remove the Union’s ability to secure and defend our rights to a real grievance procedure, basic health and safety, non-discrimination, benefits for international students, non-retaliation, public safety, job security, a reasonable workload, and much, much more.

JHU kicked off today’s session by presenting their non-economic counter proposals. The lead negotiator first framed their counter arguments by introducing a fundamental difference in their definition of a worker, saying: “Johns Hopkins fundamentally views this relationship [between grad workers and the University] as a student relationship.” As stated repeatedly throughout the course of the day, JHU completely denies that we are workers. This was apparent in their insulting counter proposals in which they completely struck out or rejected health and safety protections, non-discrimination proposals, inclusive work environment proposals, protections for international workers, a right to a fair grievance procedure, and protections against retaliation, among many other important and fundamental provisions for worker safety. They said it best themselves:

JHU Rejects the Following Articles:








In their counter proposal on grievance procedures specifically, JHU wrote: “The Union acknowledges that it has no right to interfere with or grieve decisions regarding academic performance, academic discipline…non-employment violations of Title IX, including such decisions that may impact a student’s employment.” The reason we unionized is precisely because existing policies are not protecting workers. These are the same policies JHU implies are sufficient. 

When we asked, “What is the reason for striking out our proposal for grievance procedures?”, JHU responded, “If it’s a student misconduct issue, then it’s outside the purview of the union. This does not belong in a collective bargaining agreement.”

When the union asked about the entirety of non-discrimination policies being removed, language that had been copied directly from JHU’s existing policies with us adding expanded categories including caste, marital status, family status, parental or caregiver status, pregnancy status, gender transition status, political affiliation or belief, and more, JHU responded, “All protected classes are already covered by university policy or federal/state/local law. We believe there are adequate protections that already exist through legal process and university policy and are not necessary in the collective bargaining agreement.”

Instead, JHU proposed their own initial non-economic proposals that formally vest all power regarding academic discipline, misconduct, insurance, job content, and quite literally everything the University already has control over, in their own hands under the umbrella of “management rights.” One example is that JHU believes that they have the “sole discretion and decision making power over our research methodology and materials.” They have also scrapped our demands for meaningful intellectual property rights, saying once again that this does not belong in a collective bargaining agreement. It’s clear they want all the profit of our research and labor while giving us no protections. 

Throughout the day, JHU admin reiterated that any “individual” concerns we have can and should be addressed interpersonally, individually, and through Hopkins’ existing policies that serve to remedy student issues. 

We provided examples of issues TRU members face that require redress in a Union contract. For example, the Chemistry department requested a routine external review of lab safety practices, and the review found that the current lab safety culture is unacceptable. We therefore asked JHU, “Given that our members are reporting systematic examples of failures to health and safety policies…, how do you expect the monitoring of workplace safety to happen outside of a union contract?” They told us plainly: “There are existing means by which to raise those issues and existing legal protections to protect students from such cases. This does not belong in a collective bargaining agreement.”

When we asked JHU to clarify “does the university think that current policies cover both work and academic issues sufficiently?,” we heard a resounding “Yes!” from many admin members on the other side of the table. Hopkins mistakenly believes the issues we face in our workplaces are minor, rare, and inconsequential to our everyday lives. Why would a supermajority of graduate workers have voted YES to unionize over such “small issues”?

We know that JHU is afraid of how mobilized and organized our base is. The effects of the Bargaining Kickoff Rally last week deeply threatened their power at the table. They expressed grave disappointment that we did not seek prior authorization to use Wyman Quad while simultaneously confirming that if we had asked, our request would have been denied. They also expressed disappointment that due to our demonstration, the freshly laid sod had been damaged, and the University had to replant it. We responded by sharing their own published policies that clearly state, “prior arrangements are not required for student demonstrations” to which they had no answer. JHU cares more about their grass than grads! 

They reiterated this fear in a “No Strike” clause. In this clause, they proposed to limit our ability to not only strike ourselves but to even stand in solidarity with other workers in and outside of JHU without being disciplined or discharged from the University. If we are, as JHU so firmly believes, not workers, then why would even the thought of a strike threaten them so deeply?

We are outraged that JHU would disrespect the bargaining process by striking out the majority of our proposals today and are committed now more than ever to securing the rights we deserve in our union contract. Your support will be essential to winning us the protections we so desperately need and that indeed belong in a collective bargaining agreement. We will reconvene bargaining tomorrow, May 19th, with some of our own counters to the insulting proposals presented to us today. Throughout bargaining, you can view our proposals and JHU’s counter proposals at

We will not allow JHU to undermine us, to run this university on the backs of our labor while refusing to acknowledge us as workers, and to deny us very basic human rights that include the right to a safe and inclusive work environment. Everything we proposed was ignored on the basis of refusing to acknowledge our status as workers and thus outside of the scope of what could be negotiated through collective bargaining. 

We are prepared to fight for what we deserve, and are excited for you to join us!

In strength and solidarity, 

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

Dear Fellow TRU Members,

It was an amazing day to gather to fight for livable wages, fair benefits, and reasonable workspace rights!

We were immensely energized as a bargaining committee to see hundreds of graduate workers and allies at the Bargaining Kickoff Rally, and we were able to carry that joy with us as we continued to hear chants when bargaining started back up in the afternoon. 

Our power comes from our numbers and our labor, so sign up for the Contract Action Team here to continue to help us that strength! Given that the university administration’s representatives decided to shrink away from the rally, we know they felt graduate workers’ collective power! 

We officially started bargaining at 10AM, and began with a series of opening statements. These were given by members of the bargaining committee on issues critical to all of us, ranging from union security to transit. 

Kwaku Quansah kicked off our opening remarks with a statement about how critical union shop is to the long term wellbeing of our membership, saying:

“By safeguarding our Union, we, the graduate workers of Johns Hopkins University, will be able to confidently drive the invaluable research work that has made our institution stand out among its peers.”

As one of several speakers addressing the need for fair benefits and pay, Breanne Kincaid gave an inspiring address on the need for liveable stipends, saying:

“[Hopkins’] commitment to Baltimore must begin with the 3,300 graduate students whose stipend dictates whether they can afford safe and dignified housing, their vulnerability to predatory landlords, and whether they can reinvest in the city they call home. Students shouldn’t be reliant on public resources to prevent food insecurity and medical bankruptcy.”

Steven Sola closed our statements with a poignant reminder on the importance of an effective grievance procedure, saying that under the current system:

“There is no recourse when bad things happen, and as a PhD employee, you have no power to change things in the department or the school.”

Following opening statements, the bargaining committee spent some time walking through our noneconomic contract proposals with administration. Hopkins administration provided no counter proposals at this session. They instead chose to ask a series of questions about the nature of our proposals after a two hour break they requested. Some of these questions included inquiries into why graduate workers would want funding transparency, if there was any particular reason we requested protections for break rooms for graduate workers, and if it was really true that workers were asked to take on additional unpaid work over the course of their degree. 

We will reconvene bargaining May 18th and have scheduled meetings with the university on May 19th, May 31st, June 1st. We expect to hear responses from Hopkins’ administration on our proposals starting on the 18th. In the meantime, we are excited to continue to build union power together. In order to win all of the contract asks that we need and deserve, it will be absolutely necessary that we collectively maintain and expand our organizing!

This can look like having 1-on-1 conversations with coworkers, going on walkthroughs in labs, and attending organizing meetings. This upcoming Tuesday evening at 6pm we will have an all-members Contract Action Team meeting where we will plan next steps in our organizing, and we strongly encourage unit members to attend (and RSVP here!).  We look forward to the coming months of organizing, fighting and winning together!

In strength and solidarity,

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee