Bargaining Updates

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Bargaining News

TL;DR

  • Management refuses to bargain with us on health benefits despite making clear that the improvements we want are possible.
  • In Discipline and Discharge, we are still fighting for our work to be recognized as work and due process when our bosses want to discipline or fire us.
  • Join us today at the Picket for Union Power to remind the university we won’t settle for a weak union, low pay, or a sham discipline process! tinyurl.com/tru-union-power-picket

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

Today Johns Hopkins Administration made clear that their choice to deny us improvements to our benefits is just that: a choice. Management brought in administrators from the Office of Student Health and Well-Being to give a presentation on and answer questions about our health benefits. After they re-explained our current benefits to us, we asked how they chose to change all graduate workers to the Wellfleet healthcare plan. In response, they touted how little they spend on our plans and how easy it is for them to change coverage. Despite explicitly admitting to this flexibility and low cost, Johns Hopkins has thus far completely refused to bargain with us on improving benefits, deleting all of our proposed language that would create reasonable baselines for our health insurance.

Admin’s proposal on Leave further emphasized their lack of consideration for graduate worker needs. Although we made small gains, winning an extra day of bereavement leave for grad workers who need to travel internationally to attend funeral services, management still claimed that extending this benefit to include anyone  other than a limited number of family members would be “too unwieldy.” This trivializes the very real grief of this kind of loss that many of our members have faced and might face in losing close friends and loved ones.

Finally, we also exchanged the Discipline and Discharge proposal. Management continues to insist that grad workers can be disciplined or discharged without written warning or a fair process, so long as their supervisor claims the issue is “academic.” They claim that the existing university academic grievance procedure is sufficient. We continue to look for a compromise that would allow graduate workers to be protected in all cases of unfair discipline and discharge. 

The administration suggested an extra bargaining date this week in response to the pressure they are feeling, across departments, divisions, and campuses by just hearing about our picket!! The practice picket today is crucial in showing them our united strength.

·         East Baltimore (10am-12pm): Broadway St., across from Hampton House, outside the Dome

·         Homewood (1-4pm): the Beach, N. Charles St., across from Milton Eisenhower library

The administration moves when we take collective action. Come stand with us today, so we can create the workplace we deserve. See you there!

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • Admin guaranteed 8 weeks of paid parental leave
  • Admin continues to propose an insufficient $40,000 base stipend, newly adding non-competitive raises over the next 2 years
  • RSVP to our picket this Tuesday to help us win fair compensation and benefits, work is work, and union security! tinyurl.com/tru-union-power-picket

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

In yesterday’s bargaining session, the administration began to make meaningful movement on some sections of the leave article. They finally explicitly guaranteed us 8 weeks of paid parental leave, a necessary yet still woefully inadequate accommodation for new parents and their children. Though this is status quo for leave policies for fully funded JHU graduate workers, its direct inclusion in our contract constitutes an important and protected right. We continue to fight for additional vacation days to create a comprehensive leave package for workers.

The administration made largely inadequate movement on their compensation proposal, with some small but important wins. Grad workers will be able to continue receiving pay & benefits between their defense and degree conferral or graduation. We also won language stating that workers can book and bill travel directly to the University. Admin also agreed that all teaching and course administration roles must be financially compensated, whether through guaranteed funding or otherwise! 

Unfortunately, however, JHU maintained their previous $40,000 base stipend offer, with marginally larger raises offered in 2025 and 2026. Importantly, even with these raises, we would not make as much as grad workers at JHU’s competitor institutions like MIT, Yale, Columbia, and Harvard. Additionally, many of our members will graduate before 2026, so we will not accept short- or long-term raises that still do not fairly compensate grad workers for their labor.

Given Hopkins’s stubborn approach to compensating us fairly for the labor we provide and reputation we bring, it’s more important now than ever that we show up loudly and in large numbers to demand the rights we deserve! RSVP to our practice picket on Tuesday, February 20th to show the University that we deserve fair compensation and benefits, protection from unfair discipline, and union security.

In solidarity,

Your Bargaining Committee


TL:DR

  • Admin still is not taking our proposals seriously and has rejected almost our entire benefits package.
  • They stated that a $40k stipend, $8-10k less than our peer institutions, is so generous that they are UNWILLING to bargain over health insurance, paid parental leave, shuttle timeliness, and more.
  • Turn out to the picket to make your voice heard! Force admin to take us seriously! tinyurl.com/TRU-union-power-picket

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

During yesterday’s bargaining session, the admin presented us with their counters on our dependent care and transit proposals, which they returned with no improvements from their last counterproposal.  In the few changes they did make, they rejected benefits, some of which were previously agreed to, citing “concerns over equity.” They claimed that offering benefits like improved childcare assistance would be unfair to workers who do not use such benefits. They did not comment on existing funding and benefits inequities across campus, like the existence of departments making over $40k and departments making $0k, and have so far offered no other benefits or improvements in exchange for the previously agreed to benefits that they retracted.

We presented our latest counterproposals on Compensation and Leave, and the admin returned their counter on Benefits to us. In this counter, they merged all of our benefits into one single proposal only to reject the vast majority of them outright. When presenting their proposal for our health insurance, management was clear on where they stand, stating, “We continue to reject specifying the provisions of the health plan or making any changes to that plan.” They refused to make any improvements to our mental health benefits and instead offered “an annual discussion for recommendations on improvements” with no guarantees on how or whether these discussions will lead to any substantive improvements. 

We alerted the admin that the compensation and benefits package they have proposed is not at all on par with peer institutions and that we believe our membership will fight for more. The admin then reiterated to us that their offer of $40k and 3 years of guaranteed funding represented a “substantial improvement,” despite the fact that some departments currently make more than $40k and the vast majority of them offer much more than 3 years of funding. They even insisted that this offer was so generous that they consider any improvements to our benefits to be “extra” and are “unwilling” to negotiate them. We do not consider below-industry-standard compensation and insufficient benefits an improvement and will continue to push for fair and just compensation for our labor.

In short, it is obvious that the administration does not take our proposals or our needs seriously. They do not recognize that the very things they refuse to negotiate on are essential for our members. Fair compensation is essential; an affordable and effective health insurance plan is essential; our right to due process when we are disciplined or face being fired is essential; and our power as a union to continue improving our conditions is essential. We have been able to move the administration when we flex our collective power. Now is the time to apply even more pressure on the administration, as they deny us basic dignity and respect despite all the money and prestige that our labor produces for this university. To continue to apply this pressure, sign up for an hour shift at the campus-wide picket planned for February 20th. We need everyone who can make it out on the picket line next Tuesday so we can show the administration that we are willing to fight for a great contract!


In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee 

TL:DR

  • We reached a tentative agreement on Non-Discrimination, winning some of the strongest protections for victims of sexual assault and harassment of any graduate union.
  • Admin offered a base stipend of only $40k that would leave us $8-10k below unionized peer institutions, which have won up to $50k. They also continue to reject cost-of-living adjustments, which would leave us vulnerable to spikes in inflation. 
  • Admin still refuses to guarantee adequate paid parental, caregiving, and medical leave.
  • Help us move admin together: tinyurl.com/tru-cat

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

After many months of negotiation, we signed an exciting tentative agreement (TA) on Non-Discrimination! Given how vital protections against discrimination are for our members, we have been fighting for these protections since bargaining began in May and refused to settle until we reached a strong agreement. This TA guarantees enforceable timelines for OIE processes and unlike many other grad union contracts, allows members to invoke the Union’s grievance procedure to resolve cases of discrimination and sexual harassment, including for cases involving Title IX. These wins were only made possible with the pressure of repeated actions both at and outside of the bargaining table. Through collective action, we were successfully able to move JHU from a position of completely rejecting this article to promising us real, enforceable recourse in the face of discrimination and harassment.

Though this win on Non-Discrimination is a major and important step towards the contract we deserve, Hopkins continues to offer responses to our economic proposals that fall short of what grad workers need. The admin’s counterproposal on Leave fails to improve the number of vacation days that grad workers are entitled to, and restricts sick days and bereavement leave for biological and legal family relationships. A disproportionate number of our workers are international and/or queer and depend on systems of support that are not represented by management’s rigid definition of family. Under Hopkins’ proposal, those of us whose family ties do not fall along biological or legal lines would not be able use bereavement leave to take time off to care for or grieve the death of our loved ones. 

Hopkins also refuses to guarantee that graduate workers who take leaves of absence will be offered their original appointments upon their return, and remains adamant that they will not improve parental, caregiving, and medical leave. We know this is unacceptable and will continue to fight for leave policies that serve all graduate workers.

Management’s Compensation proposal was no better. Though we made significant movement on our stipend proposal in order to move closer to a mutually agreeable number, decreasing our $58,000 offer by $5,500 to $52,500, the administration countered with a base stipend of only $40,000. This is an increase of only $2,000 from their previous proposal, and still less than current and imminent stipend levels at divisions across JHU. This proposed stipend will still leave JHU grads making $8,000-10,000 less than our unionized peer institutions such as Yale, Brown, Harvard, and Princeton, some of which are in cities with a lower cost of living than Baltimore. Regardless, a $40,000 stipend is far less than a fair wage for our work. Management also refused to guarantee more than 3 years of funding for all grad workers, and completely rejected cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for our stipends, despite recent and continuing record inflation.

Finally, the admin rescinded the previously agreed upon adoption assistance benefit, a benefit worth $16,000 that would be new for graduate workers, and neglected to provide any alternative benefits to compensate for this repeal. 

Overall, JHU administration is still ignoring our core priorities at the bargaining table:

  • Fair Compensation
  • Union Shop
  • The Recognition of our Work as Work

We do not consider the admin’s response to our economic proposals last Friday to represent meaningful movement, and alongside all of our members, we will continue to pressure them to give us the wages and benefits we need and deserve. Sign up here to join our ongoing fight for a fair contract!

Remember, Hopkins can afford it!

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee 

TL;DR

  • Public Health and Nursing workers gave testimonies about the challenges they face earning poverty wages and late pay; over 100 members showed up for noise demonstrations on both campuses.
  • As a result of these actions, JHU agreed to reimburse fees/expenses incurred due to late pay AND guarantee funding for the first 3 years for ALL grad workers.
  • JHU gave us a compensation counterproposal with NO increase in the offered stipend.
  • Admin still thinks they should be able to fire anyone without any chance for recourse through our grievance procedure.

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

We began today’s bargaining session with powerful testimonies from our members in the School of Public Health and School of Nursing: two of the divisions Hopkins brags about the most and pays the least. Some members in these programs do not have any guaranteed stipend. The testimonials highlighted the long-standing issues of the poverty wages our workers are forced to live on and the frequent late paychecks which are illegal and leave grad workers without money for rent and food. Hopkins claims to be proud of these schools, while continuing to undervalue the workers who make them great. As one member stated, “Our labor is uniquely tied to Hopkins’ world-class reputation as a leading force in nursing and public health. We refuse to be glossed over and left out of the economic benefits to be gained through this historic contract.”

Additionally, our members participated in noise demonstrations to show administration our strength and willingness to show up for what we believe in. Outside of the public health building on the East Baltimore campus and Garland Hall, the administrative building on Homewood, members demanded fair wages, guaranteed funding, and improved medical benefits.

Stating that they made movement in response to “our visitors” in the morning, the administration passed back improved guaranteed funding and late pay proposals in the afternoon. Workers can now be reimbursed for expenses like late fees incurred if JHU pays them late. Importantly, ALL workers will now be guaranteed funding for the first three years of their programs. These huge victories are strong proof of the power of collective action, but they are not the end point of our fight for fair compensation!

A group of TRU members on Homewood campus hold signs during the Pay Us More 2024 demonstration
TRU members raise a fist in solidarity and hold a UE Local 197 sign in a meeting room on the medical school campus.

As our fellow worker said during their testimonial, we “have bled ourselves dry to continue doing the work we believe in, and this university has profited off of our research and teaching labor.” To the admin, they asked, “As you proceed in negotiations over graduate worker pay, I ask you, why don’t we deserve fair pay?” Later in the day, the administration brought three insulting proposals to the table, including a gutted compensation article and a discipline article that would allow them to fire and punish us whenever they want under the pretense of academics. This is outrageous. The administration can treat us reasonably. They canpay us fairly. They can acknowledge that our labor is work, and that we deserve workplace rights. Even so, they chose to hand us back the status quo. Everyone in the bargaining room today heard the testimonials of families suffering because working parents are not paid enough to cover rent and necessities in Baltimore. Your employer heard these stories and, rather than acknowledging them, added insult to injury through their disappointing counterproposals.

Join the Contract Action Team and let your frustration turn into action rather than apathy.

In strength and solidarity, 

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • We signed a tentative agreement on Holidays.
  • We signed a tentative agreement on Workload, in which JHU finally recognizes that teaching IS work and has agreed to include protections from excessive work requirements. 
  • We won enforceable timelines for discrimination and harassment issues brought to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE).
  • We continue fighting for on-time payment and remedies for receiving late payment from JHU.
  • Come to our next General Membership Meeting on 1/23! RSVP: tinyurl.com/tru-jan-gmm

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker, 

Yesterday in bargaining, we signed a tentative agreement (TA) on Holidays, our first Economic article TA! In this article, we won time off to go vote in national (including international), state, and local elections. Workers will also be able to take off an alternate day if working on a university-recognized holiday, and will be generally accommodated when observing religious holidays. 

We also signed an exciting TA on our Workload ArticleIn a landmark win for graduate unions, we won the fact that teaching in all forms is considered work, including for course credit. Specifically, the administration has recognized we can’t be asked to work beyond a reasonable limit as outlined in an appropriate work assignment. This win is due to months of organizing by workers across the university and represents real progress. However, the admin has yet to explicitly recognize all our research as work, and is still proposing the ability to terminate workers for research-related performance without just cause.

We also made substantial movement on the Non-Discrimination article. Admin agreed to enforceable timelines of around 6-9 months for most issues brought to the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), though we continue fighting for shorter timelines. Unfortunately, the University is still proposing that cases specifically related to sex-based discrimination (Title IX) are not subject to these enforceable timelines. In our counterproposal, employees would be able to exit the Title IX process after 6 months and pursue the union grievance procedure instead.

We presented 4 economic counters: On-Time Payment, Expenses and Teaching Assistant Pay, Tuition and Fees, and Employee Assistance. When we expressed our disappointment that JHU rejected most of our on-time payment proposal, the administration responded that such issues are often due to workers submitting late paperwork and that “there’s been a lot of work done at the university-level to avoid [late payments] from happening.” Moreover, admin stated that workers who are paid late are such rare cases that those workers should simply reach out to the Vice Provost directly. We know, however, that late pay issues run rampant throughout this university. The only way to get a comprehensive and lasting solution to not getting paid on time is through protections in a contract. 

We were only able to achieve these important wins because of strong organizing with you, our fellow graduate workers. To help us strategize on how we can win even more together and figure out next steps in our fight for a fair contract, come to our next General Membership Meeting (GMM) on Tuesday, Jan 23rd at 6pm. Find more details and RSVP here: tinyurl.com/tru-jan-gmm.

In strength and solidarity, 

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL; DR

  • Admin believes that some teaching is not work and wants to exclude teaching from contract protections. We know that all teaching is work. 
  • We continue to fight for quicker resolutions of discrimination, harassment, and misconduct allegations through OIE. Slow resolutions will be subject to the union grievance procedures.
  • We are standing firm in our commitment that every PhD should receive a fair wage that increases every year to match the cost of living.
  • Sign up now to attend our January General Membership Meeting to be a part of winning a fair contract: tinyurl.com/tru-jan-gmm.

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

We met with admin on Thursday and Friday last week.

On Thursday, we talked primarily about workload and holidays. The central question in our Workload article is, “What is work?” Sabine Stanley, Vice Provost for Graduate Education, argued that every time someone works as a Teaching Assistant (TA), they are learning something; as a result, teaching is an academic matter and not subject to contract negotiations. However, many TA workers in our unit have experienced these positions to be more administrative in nature. We know that all teaching should be considered work, even when it’s required for funding packages or academic requirements. Anyone forced to do excessive amounts of work in any capacity should be protected under our contract. We are also fighting to protect workers from excessive requests from their supervisors and PIs, as well as from the imposition of discipline if they refuse to do that requested work.

We are getting close to an agreement on our Holidays article. We will have a defined list of holidays on which we will not be expected to work. If we are required to work on these days, we will be given an alternate day off. We also won time off to vote in federal, state, and local elections.

One article we worked on both days was Non-Discrimination, Harassment, and No Retaliation. The biggest barrier to finalizing this article is our attempt to secure a firm timeline for resolving complaints filed with the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). According to this report, OIE took, on average in 2022, 109 days to close investigations of discrimination/harassment allegations, and 221 days to close investigations of sexual misconduct allegations. This is unacceptable. We are proposing set timeframes for these investigations to be concluded, allowing for a union grievance to be filed after a set amount of time. However, admin continues to reject this proposal and doesn’t want any time limits to be implemented.

Additionally, on Friday, we delivered a counterproposal for the Stipend article. Previously, admin only offered us $38,000 a year, and workers that don’t currently have guaranteed funding would not be offered this raise. This would set up a two-tiered system for our unit, excluding the workers that most need the money. Admin’s proposal only offered a 3% yearly raise, with no cost-of-living allowances. Our counterproposal demands $58,000 a year with 5% yearly raises and cost-of-living allowances. 

We ended our Friday session by receiving the Leave article from admin. Unfortunately, admin did not move a lot on this article. They are still rejecting our language around personal days, extended leaves of absences, medical leave, and caregiving leave. They continue to only offer us 8 weeks of parental leave, 15 days of vacation, 5 days of bereavement, and 15 days of sick time (which includes daily updates to our supervisors). 

Our next bargaining session will be tomorrow, January 16th, when we will continue to fight for a fair contract.

Sign up to attend our January General Membership Meeting to help us win the contract we deserve! Details here: tinyurl.com/tru-jan-gmm.

In Solidarity,

Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • We reached a tentative agreement on International Employee Rights that ensures faster response times from OIS and tax support for international workers.
  • We won adoption assistance for graduate workers and free Baltimore transit passes, but admin is still rejecting most of our proposals on Transit and Dependent Care.
  • Hopkins still asserts that the work we do that keeps this university running should not be considered work, proposing language that would give them the right to unilaterally classify all of our work as “academic” and thus exempt it from the protections of our contract.
  • Join the fight and help us show Hopkins that our work IS work! tinyurl.com/tru-jan-gmm

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

Last Friday we reached an agreement on International Employee Rights that included strong language on our most critical priorities. This article ensures that the University’s Office of International Services will make a good faith effort to substantively respond to international graduate workers’ inquiries in 3 days or less and guarantees that OIS will provide international workers with documentation necessary for entering the US no more than 10 business days after a request. This article also commits the University to providing tax software and a minimum of 3 tax workshops per year. Given that Hopkins initially rejected nearly all of this article, this agreement demonstrates that when we organize around key issues, we can move the administration to make the changes that we need.

We also received proposals from admin on Transit and Dependent Care. We were able to win reimbursement for monthly transit passes and access to adoption assistance. While these are significant gains, the admin’s counterproposals cut many key provisions from our articles, including subsidized parking; improvements in shuttle coverage, wait times, and frequency; and stipends for graduate workers with dependents.

In addition to failing to meet our economic demands, the administration is still holding the position that academic matters extend far beyond coursework and must be carved out of our contract entirely. They explicitly state in their Workload proposal that “the following activities are not considered work under this Article or this Agreement: teaching when it is a degree requirement, the employee’s own academic course work, and the employee’s own academic research.”

Beyond this admission that they believe our teaching and academic research should be free labor, the administration then proposed that each grad worker’s supervisor would independently decide what is considered “academic research” versus work protected by the terms of our contract. We asked how this would protect us from all of our labor being misclassified as “academic research,” and thus not subject to reasonable workload protections. They replied, “I don’t think it does,” and claimed that it was simply grad workers’ “perception” that the JHU academic grievance process, which only 5 PhD students have ever successfully used, consistently fails to protect us.

Management also likened our dissertation research to a homework assignment. They stated that the amount of time we spend working on our dissertation research, like how much time we spend on homework, is purely a “personal decision.” When asked whether there were any measures currently in place at Hopkins to ensure faculty enforce a reasonable workload, the administration responded, “It’s up to the student to meet the expectation” and repeated that it’s up to us how much time we are putting in to finish our dissertations. They made it clear that they do not believe our work is work or that we should be protected from unreasonable work expectations, even if it costs us our jobs.

This belief is borne out in Hopkins’ Discipline and Discharge proposal, which states, “The Union acknowledges that it has no right to interfere with or grieve decisions regarding academic or student conduct policy violations or non-employment violations of Title IX, including such decisions that may impact a student’s employment.

We will not accept this. While we have made great gains so far, we know that through further organizing and escalating pressure, we can ensure that our work will be protected and make far greater gains on our most critical issues. Join us in our fight to create a better Johns Hopkins! tinyurl.com/tru-jan-gmm

In Solidarity,

The TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • Admin has offered a minimum stipend of $38k with subsequent 3% raises each year
  • In response to our proposal that all grad workers receive 7 years of guaranteed funding, the university only offered 3 years. These proposed changes to guaranteed funding also would not apply to anyone currently at Hopkins.
  • Admin refused to negotiate on most of our economic proposals, rejecting any improvements to health insurance coverage, guarantees of on-time payment, and more.
  • Join the Contract Action Team to build our union strength and gain a fair contract! tinyurl.com/tru-cat

Dear fellow graduate worker, 

Yesterday, the administration provided us counters on our economic proposals. Johns Hopkins, a university with over $2 billion in unrestricted endowment funds, counterproposed a minimum stipend of $38,000 a year (an amount which is not a livable wage in the city of Baltimore and does not offer a raise to many departments), stating that this was a “significant improvement.” This starting minimum stipend and subsequent 3% annual raises are far below what grad worker unions at our peer institutions have won, but this number does mark a starting point which can only increase from here. The University has also only committed to guarantee 3 years of funding, a ridiculously short time to complete a PhD in nearly every program. We know that these initial offers are insufficient and will continue to stand together and fight for a fair stipend for all of our members.

Additionally, the university has reduced many key issues, including on-time payment and health insurance, into a series of short and almost entirely toothless articles. The administration is currently refusing to negotiate over improvements to our health insurance, simply stating that we are eligible to enroll in the current student health plans. They have also removed any enforcement mechanisms from our proposals to ensure we receive pay on time. A living wage, good health insurance, and on-time pay guarantees are core reasons why we unionized, and we will not accept a contract that does not offer substantial improvements on all of these issues.

Despite receiving our transit proposal over 6 months ago, and having over 1 month to work on a response since we reintroduced it with our economic proposals, management was unable to formulate a response in time for today. Similarly, they have yet to give us a response on Dependent Care benefits. The administration has also completely rejected a number of other key economic proposals that would improve the quality of life for all of our members, including those on office space for employees, the establishment of a university-wide emergency hardship fund, relocation funds for incoming grad workers, policies regarding prompt reimbursement, equal access to campus gyms and other university facilities, and improvements to employee safety in a public health crisis.

Despite the underwhelming and insufficient counterproposals to our economic demands, we signed an agreement on Public Safety. This article secures the right for our members to engage in peaceful demonstrations and actions without the threat of violence from the university. The university will also now pursue non-law-enforcement disciplinary procedures when a graduate worker’s behavior stemming from a mental health crisis or drug use violates the terms of employment. These wins are unprecedented in a union contract and are important wins for not only our union but for the labor movement as a whole. The University also returned our proposal on international employee rights. Though we have reached agreement on most of this article, Hopkins administration continues refusing to guarantee reasonable OIS response times.

With these economic counterproposals, the university has made it clear once again that they do not respect graduate workers or our needs. We have made progress in negotiations, and there is also a lot more that can be won to improve our workplace! In order to rapidly gain more rights there are demonstrative actions ahead of us that will need to be coordinated. With more organizing support, this fight will be easier! Join us in fighting for a fair wage, better healthcare, on-time pay, and much more! tinyurl.com/tru-cat

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • We presented our full slate of economic proposals, including our proposal for a livable wage!
  • We secured time limits on OIS responses, the right to peacefully protest without being met with force, and the right to film/record police during demonstrations
  • We will see substantial recourse for discrimination reflected in our contract
  • Over 150 grad workers marched to President Ron Daniels’ house to demand fair wages today! Add your voice to our email campaign for a living wage: tinyurl.com/marchforfairwages

Dear fellow graduate worker, 

            We had an eventful two back-to-back days of bargaining, making major progress on several non-economic articles and presenting our economic proposals. Before article exchanges, on Thursday, we received an update from the University on the Cooley Center/Hampton House demolition. The closing of the Cooley Center is being delayed from its scheduled date of December 31st as Cooley gym equipment is moved to another location close to the East Baltimore campus. Admin has also informed us that they are working to keep affected departments/groups together as Hampton House office space is moved to new locations.

In terms of articles exchanged, the university made significant movements on International Worker Rights and Public Safety. In Public Safety, we are particularly excited to win language stating that the University will address issues of worker drug use and mental health crises through discipline procedures rather than through law enforcement. In a landmark win today, we finally received language from the University guaranteeing that “employees will continue to have the right to engage in peaceful demonstrations and protestswithout the caveat that said protests need to adhere to “University policy.” 

In International Worker Rights, we secured language that the Office of International Students (OIS) will make a good faith effort to provide substantive responses to international graduate workers in three (3) business days. The University has also committed to ensuring more tax support for international workers through multiple tax workshops and the provision of tax preparation resources. The University has also agreed to pay the difference between workers’ stipends and the pay from another employer during CPT/OPT taken during a guaranteed funding period, but we disagree that this should be applicable only as per program policies. We also continue working to ensure a sanctuary campus through other portions of this article.

Importantly and after nearly two months, we also received a substantial counter on our Non-Discrimination, Harassment, and No Retaliation article, securing our right to necessary recourse for discrimination and harassment against employees in our union contract. The University’s explicit and grievable commitment to preventing the existence of a hostile work environment will help protect workers against unreasonable and harmful supervisor behavior. Admin’s counter also accepted portions of our proposed grievance process for discrimination or harassment-related issues: if workers’ complaints are deemed outside of the jurisdiction of Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), as nearly 50% of them are, they will proceed through steps of our grievance procedure. We continue to work back-and-forth on the exact details of how and when these procedures are applied. Given protracted fights at other campuses for the right to this recourse, however, we are hopeful about what our victory will mean for longstanding issues of discrimination and harassment faced by grad workers at JHU. 

Admin informed us that they saw no way to bargain further on union security, management rights, or discipline and discharge without moving into economic bargaining. So, instead, admin presented a new article on Leave and Benefits at the start of today’s session. This article included several sections comprising language on health insurance, tuition subsidy, vacation, sick time, parental leave, and other leaves of absence. This unexpected proposal was in general concordance with the sections we had planned to propose in our article on Leave time, but left out critical improvements to our medical benefits that many grads have been demanding for years and which are encompassed by our proposals.

We finished today’s session by presenting admin with our full slate of economic proposals, all of which are now available to view in our Bargaining Tracker. As we continue exchanging these proposals, we are excited to bring grad worker voices on what we need in order to do our work and thrive in Baltimore to the bargaining table. We will keep fighting together for what we deserve as workers of this University.

The wins detailed here could not have been possible without the enthusiastic and continuous support of our Contract Action Team (CAT). Many of us were excited to be able to participate in the March for Fair Wages, chanting “What’s outrageous? Unfair wages! What’s disgusting? Union busting!” in solidarity with our fellow graduate workers to support our newly presented economic proposals. There’s still time to make your voice heard! Send an email following instructions at tinyurl.com/marchforfairwages to tell the JHU Admin that enough is enough, we want a fair contract! 

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • Admin denies timely OIS response to our International Workers and refuses to protect our right to peaceful protest in Public Safety
  • Your presence Friday is crucial to showing the admin we won’t accept stalling over a livable wage. March for Fair Wages, December 8, 1:30pm, Keyser Quad (on Homewood): tinyurl.com/fair-wages

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

After a three-week bargaining break, the Bargaining Committee met with admin yesterday morning. The BC awaited 8 counter-proposals from the administration, but after three weeks, the administration returned just 2 out of the 8 articles that are necessary for us to secure workplace protections. We are ready to negotiate seriously over these proposals so we can settle them quickly. Why does the admin want to delay?

As the university continues to stall, we cannot emphasize enough how much collective power outside the table is required to move negotiations. We know the administration feels threatened and moves when they are confronted by your voices and presence. Now is the time to show up and let admin know we expect a fair contract. Members are organizing a March for Fair Wages this Friday, 12/8 at 1:30 p.m. to show the administration that we are willing to show up for the contract we deserve. RSVP here

At yesterday’s session, the first article they returned was a counter on International Employee Rights. One major source of contention in this article is that the admin continues to cut fair processing times on time-sensitive immigration asks. In doing so, admin refuses to enable OIS to adequately serve international workers by doing things like responding to requests regarding immigration within 2 business days and providing time-sensitive documentation to workers trying to enter the country within a meaningful time frame. 

Admin has agreed to our provision asking that they not disclose an employee’s immigration status with the Department of Homeland Security unless legally required to do so but continues to maintain that they would aid the DHS in instances of investigating crimes such as human trafficking. The BC finds the inclusion of such specific instances of crime investigations as justification for supporting the DHS as unnecessary and frankly, insulting to our international members. 

Despite the admin refusing to budge on these key issues of time frames, we have made some major wins in this article! We have won the right for an international worker to not be held by campus security (such as the JHPD) based on immigration status, guaranteed that the university will not withhold tuition support based on DACA status, and guaranteed access to 2 immigration and visa workshops a year, 3 tax workshops a year, and ESL resources! 

Admin also returned the Public Safety article in which they continue to reject our opposition to private armed policing. In previous conversations with Dr. Branville Bard, head of the proposed JHPD, BC members were met with hostility and no guarantee that union demonstrations and gatherings would not be met with police suppression. Therefore, we continue to fight for the right to demonstrate and assemble as graduate workers and union members without being met with force. We also continue to uphold demands for mental health and drug-related cases to be handled using the discipline procedure of our article rather than through law enforcement. 

While the administration refuses to provide meaningful protections to our members, such as giving victims of sexual violence contract provisions to find recourse outside of an inefficient Title IX procedure, they continue to push for an armed police force with no intention of addressing the main crimes on campus – wage theft by the employer and sexual violence.

Members of TRU have repeatedly emphasized that an armed private police force run by our employer is a threat to our workplace and community safety. In the interest of winning the foundations of public and community safety, we’re moving towards an article focused on continuing that fight beyond the bargaining table. We are shifting our fight to oppose the JHPD off the table and into a more concerted organized resistance on campus.

We urge you to practice your power and mobilize to show the administration that we are strong, united, and organized enough to fight for the demands we are making by taking part in the March for Fair Wages this Friday at 1:30 pm in Keyser Quad!  

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • We exchanged proposals about Management Rights, Union Security, Discipline and Discharge, and Public Safety over the previous 2 days.
  • Administration refuses to give graduate workers specific guidelines for exams, which would protect them from arbitrary decisions from their advisors.
  • Come to your divisional meeting to give feedback on economic proposals: bit.ly/div-rsvp-nov

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

We met with the administration for 8 hours of bargaining over the past two days. 

Yesterday, we presented counterproposals on Management Rights and Union Security. On Management Rights, we continue to reject the administration’s proposal that includes their right to unilaterally determine academic-related misconduct, force workers to teach classes without pay, weaken medical coverage, and subcontract our work. Negotiations over the Union Security article focus on our argument that everyone should automatically be a part of the union, which will keep our union strong. 

Administration presented the union with counterproposals on Discipline and Discharge and International Employee Rights. In the Discipline and Discharge article, the administration restated their right to immediately terminate an employee at any time. They also insisted on excluding all academic-related discipline and discharge from our union’s grievance procedures, despite this being the primary way in which grad workers are fired. In the International Employee Rights article, the administration claimed the right to inquire about an employee’s immigration status in the event that our international employees are accused of human trafficking and hate crimes. The administration continues to refuse to set actual standards for OIS response times, only stating that the response must be “timely.” We returned a counterproposal stating that OIS has to respond within two business days and continuing to argue for tax support and legal advice. 

Today, we started with the administration returning our Public Safety article, in which 95% of our language was rejected. The administration does not want to commit in our contract to deploying unarmed, trained crisis workers to workers experiencing mental health crises “in case they’re shooting people.” The administration also contends that workers can be directly surveilled, recorded, and otherwise monitored in the workplace. Later in today’s session, we returned our counterproposal for Public Safety in an attempt to find a middle ground with administration. We continue to fight for our right to work in a gun-free environment and to engage in peaceful demonstrations and protests.

After discussing the Public Safety article, we returned our Discipline and Discharge article and conveyed the seriousness of this article to the administration. Since we submitted our first proposal on May 8th, this article has crossed the table 13 times. Over the past 6 months, the administration has refused to believe that our members are often subjected to arbitrary and precarious decisions from faculty members. The administration refuses to give us objective guidelines for making satisfactory progress, stating that this would be too difficult. We continue to insist that we formed a union to secure guardrails to protect workers if they are subjected to arbitrary academic decisions by their professors or advisors. 

We will have our next bargaining date on Monday, December 4th. Divisional meetings for economic proposal feedback are continuing over the next week – we want to hear from you!! Bargaining Committee and Contract Action Team members will be in attendance to answer any questions you might have. Find your division’s meeting and RSVP here.

In solidarity, 

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • We reached a tentative agreement (TA) on Inclusive Work Environment!
  • We gave the administration a proposal on Discipline and Discharge; they still want language with large loopholes that would allow them to discharge anyone over matters they deem “academic.”
  • RSVP to join your divisional meeting and discuss the economic proposal drafts at bit.ly/div-rsvp-nov

Dear Fellow Graduate Worker,

Yesterday we reached a tentative agreement with management on Inclusive Work Environment! The University will not require resubmission of disability documentation and has committed to make reasonable efforts to allow graduate workers to bring their children into the workplace. This article also now includes the University’s support for providing free menstrual products in all university-owned restrooms. Overall, the article contains strong protections for accommodations for disabilities, gender equity, religious accommodations, and accommodations for parents and caregivers.

We also gave management a Discipline and Discharge counter proposal and discussed this article at length. Management claims that graduate workers should not be able to grieve any academic matters because they believe that arbitrators, who successfully resolve highly technical labor disputes in all manner of other industries, do not have the expertise to handle cases involving our work. Management again made clear that they believe academic matters, which include any teaching or research pertaining to degree requirements, should not be addressed in our contract, including in cases where academic discipline would result in us losing our jobs, because they do not feel that these activities are work. We have continued pushing back on this idea and are fighting for a contract which includes protections for all of the essential work we do for this University.

Divisional meetings for economic proposal feedback are happening over the next two weeks – we want to hear from you!! Bargaining Committee and Contract Action Team members will be in attendance to answer any questions you might have. Find your division’s meeting and RSVP here.

In solidarity, 

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • The Senior Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs spoke to us about the existing academic grievance procedure. In the 3 years this procedure has existed, it has processed grievances from only 5 Ph.D. workers. 
  • We traded proposals on Inclusive Work Environment and won gender equity protections. We are getting closer on the remaining sections of this article!
  • Join us for our General Membership Meeting THIS Thursday, November 2, to discuss our economic proposals! Please RSVP at tinyurl.com/november-gmm.

Dear fellow graduate worker,

Yesterday, the administration presented a counterproposal on Inclusive Work Environment. They agreed to our proposed gender equity protections, including the rights to use chosen names, have photographs updated within University systems, and obtain updated identification cards free of charge. These rights will allow all graduate workers to freely express themselves and their identities. We are still negotiating for accommodations for parent employees and are nearing an agreement on this article. Additionally, we presented a counter on International Employee Rights, maintaining our proposals for additional OIS staff, support for tax filing, legal aid information, and a physical OIS office so that our members can seek in-person help for their issues. As it stands, the administration is refusing our proposals, disrespecting the needs of international grad workers.

The administration brought in Janet Schreck, the Senior Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, who oversees the university-wide academic grievance policy. This policy has only existed for the last three years. Schreck’s office has a staff of two people, who have only taken five complaints from a community of over 3,300 Ph.D. workers to a full review in the last three years. This grossly underestimates the scale of academic mistreatment our membership faces, which has gone as far as workers being unfairly dismissed from their program after arbitrary qualifying exam decisions or being threatened with dismissal for reporting misconduct. Schreck stated that even when a grievance is upheld, committees formed to evaluate the grievance can only give recommendations on any potential remedies. The final decision on how to address a grievance is made by the dean of a grievant’s school, and there are no policies preventing the dean from deciding to take no action. 

In all, the admin still does not recognize that academic grievances are inextricably tied to our research and work and thus need to be covered by the Union grievance procedures. Schreck’s presentation has only made it more clear that it is essential that Hopkins give graduate workers meaningful recourse outside of insufficient University processes. 
We will continue fighting for strong contract provisions which will promote an inclusive work environment at our next bargaining session on November 6th. Join our upcoming General Membership Meeting on Thursday, November 2nd at 6pm to hear about our economic proposals, which include increased stipends, improved transit, and increased leave. RSVP at tinyurl.com/november-gmm! There will be pizza!

In solidarity, 

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • We signed two tentative agreements (TAs): Appointment Security and Health & Safety.
  • A provost from the Office of International Services told us OIS has been operating in “crisis mode” for the last 6 years as they try to support 9,000+ international students across the university with a mere 9 advisors.
  • Admin would like management rights that give them the sole right to determine the cost and coverage of student benefits, including health insurance.
  • Join us for the General Membership Meeting on November 2nd to discuss our economic proposals! Please RSVP at tinyurl.com/november-gmm

Dear fellow graduate worker,

Another day, another TA! We finalized tentative agreements on Health and Safety as well as Appointment Security. These articles guarantee us safe workplace conditions that commit the university to maintain safe workplace conditions and adequate facilities, allowing workers to file grievances if these conditions are not met. We also guaranteed our membership transitional funding in the face of canceled appointments in the Appointment Security article. 

In addition to finalizing these articles, we presented admin with our counters to two additional articles: Inclusive Work Environment and Public Safety. Together, these articles guarantee that our workers are free from harassment and discrimination of any type while ensuring that everyone has a safe and welcoming work environment.

The administration brought in Jim Brailer, the Associate Vice Provost for International Student and Scholar Services, to talk about the scope, policies, and procedures of the Office of International Services (OIS). Brailer informed us that the OIS currently serves more than 9,000 international undergraduate students and graduate workers with just 9 advisors, meaning each advisor is responsible for more than 1,000 people. Brailer said that OIS has been in “crisis mode” for 6 years; while he “would never turn down more staff,” OIS is currently hoping to achieve a ratio of 750 workers per advisor–a woeful benchmark to strive for. With over 1,500 international graduate workers in our bargaining unit, we continue to press the administration to hire more staff members to adequately serve our members. Without this change, OIS continues to remain entirely inadequate in addressing the needs of the international graduate PhD workers in our unit.

Admin presented us with yet another unreasonable counter on Scope and Management Rights. This article, as it stands, basically guts our entire contract. Admin wants a contract in which all academic matters, including all decisions regarding our academic (and by extension, degree) progress, are outside of the purview of collective bargaining. Additionally, they would like to impose a set of “Management Rights” that gives them the sole discretion to evaluate an employee’s work performance, determine research methodology, and determine the cost and coverage of health insurance, among many other extremely troublesome demands (see some of their proposal below).

We maintain that all work performed by graduate workers at JHU is work, academic or otherwise. We will continue fighting for fundamental worker rights at the bargaining table at our next session on Monday, October 30th. Join our upcoming General Membership Meeting to hear about our economic proposals on Thursday, November 2nd at 6pm. RSVP at tinyurl.com/november-gmm!

In solidarity, 

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR

  • We saw huge movement on our proposals based on our collective actions this week!
  • We reached an agreement on Health and Safety (to be signed Monday!!).
  • We are close to an agreement on Appointment Security that includes continuation of funding if your research appointment is canceled.
  • Admin and vice president of public safety will make no guarantees that JHPD will not be used to stifle or intimidate worker actions and demonstrations.
  • Come discuss our economic proposals + build on our momentum at the next General Membership Meeting on November 2. Please RSVP: tinyurl.com/november-gmm

Dear fellow graduate worker,

We showed admin the MANY concerns that over 450 members voiced through collective action this week! After recapping the SoM walkout and KSAS/SAIS/SoE teach-in for undergrads, we brought in the banner of testimonials from Whiting and the post its of testimonials from SPH & SoN. We watched as the admin read why we deserve a strong contract. Finally, we presented the admin with over 80 interactive posters collected from the KSAS Natural Sciences grads. We read aloud testimonies of workers failed by OIS, actively discriminated against by faculty, and working 60+ hour work weeks, all of which are not recognized by Hopkins as real work! After this, we re-presented our non-discrimination article. The message was clear: JHU, it’s time to get serious about protecting your workers.

Yesterday’s bargaining also included a Q&A with Dr. Branville Bard, the vice president of public safety and overseer of the Johns Hopkins Police Department (JHPD). While it is publicly known that JHPD is currently not required to abide by any recommendations given by the JHU Accountability Board, Dr. Bard also shared that he is the sole person who decides whether to implement any Accountability Board suggestions. Dr. Bard also refused to guarantee that police will not be used to suppress labor demonstrations, something we are asking for in our public safety proposal in light of the historical role of campus police being used to suppress student and labor actions. Despite the majority of our members expressing in the bargaining survey that they would feel more protected without an armed police, Dr. Bard also stated, “I think it is a misperception that you want to be more protective than I want to be.” Given that the biggest crimes happening on campus are sexual violence and wage theft, we asked whether the JHPD would hold JHU accountable for these crimes. Dr. Bard said that victims of sexual violence would always have the option of a non-police response. However, admin has thus far refused to commit to prioritizing a non-police response to conflict in our contract. We continue to hold the position that an armed private police force, owned by our employer, does affect our working conditions, both on and off campus. We therefore deserve to collectively bargain over those conditions. 

Though we have not yet agreed on non-discrimination and public safety, in the wake of massive collective action across both campuses, we reached a verbal tentative agreement on Health and Safety! The University will be required to maintain workplaces that adhere to OSHA standards. Workers can also request workplace safety evaluations that will be conducted in a timely manner as well as medical evaluations for those working with known hazards at no cost. The University will be required to maintain and provide PPE, fume hoods, and other infrastructure that protects our health. Additionally, they will provide first aid equipment and optional first aid training for workers whose jobs regularly involve exposure to hazardous materials, or who work in a hazardous environment. We will officially sign onto this article on Monday.

In Appointment Security, we have moved towards protections in the case of a canceled research or teaching appointment! This means that if you teach or do research as part of guaranteed funding, and your position is canceled or defunded, you are guaranteed funding until you find or are offered another research or teaching appointment!

We continue to bargain for a fair contract on Monday, October 23rd. As always, you can look at the specific language of all articles at our Bargaining Tracker.

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR:

  • The admin stands firm on their unwillingness to protect grad workers from sexual harassment, completely striking all language that would allow grad workers to grieve sexual harassment.
  • JHU continues to argue that the OIE and Title IX processes that have consistently failed our members are good enough for grad workers.
  • We secured protections for grad workers who engage in fieldwork including guaranteed PPE provisions, safety training for off-site work, and global emergency alerts.
  • Our ability to win a strong contract depends on grad workers participating in every lab and department. Join the Contract Action Team to learn more: tinyurl.com/tru-cat. 

Dear fellow graduate worker,

We started yesterday’s bargaining session by presenting our counter on Inclusive Work Environment where we are fighting for real protections for disabled workers, gender and restroom equity, and accommodations for parents. After receiving this proposal, the administration handed us a counter on Non-Discrimination, Harassment, and No Retaliation.

Under their proposal, the administration would have complete and unilateral authority to decide if a case of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation can be grieved under our contract rather than merely handled by the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE), which has no ability to enforce its recommendations. This is a clear effort to undermine our already agreed-upon grievance procedure.

The administration completely struck out language which would allow our members to protect themselves on their own terms from sexual misconduct and gender-based violence. See this screenshot from their counterproposal, which you can also read in full here:

This proposal callously disempowers graduate workers and makes clear the admin’s lack of commitment to addressing real harms graduate workers are facing at Hopkins.

We were still able to make progress on a number of other key issues. In Health & Safety, we won substantial new protections for off-site field work, including the right to safety training. We also won the right to receive notification of any visa requirements, necessary immunizations, or relevant emergencies for any field work site.

Yesterday’s session is another clear reminder that the administration is trying its hardest to deny graduate workers meaningful power and real workplace protections. To overcome this resistance, every division is organizing to show up for the contract we deserve. To get involved in our fight, join the Contract Action Team, contact an organizer in your department, or contact us at trujhu@gmail.com

We will continue to fight for a fair contract at the bargaining table on October 19th. As always, you can look at the specific language of all articles at our Bargaining Tracker.

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

Bargaining Update 10/5/2023

TL;DR:

  • We secured access to workers’ compensation and ergonomic health standards for graduate workers.
  • We continue to bargain for adequate protections against non-discrimination and harassment.
  • After many rounds of rejections, management finally agreed to proactively ensure employee health and safety.
  • Every division is organizing to show up for the contract we deserve. Join the Contract Action Team to help us engage every grad worker in the fight: tinyurl.com/tru-cat

Dear fellow graduate worker,

Yesterday, we presented our counterproposal on Non-Discrimination, Harassment, and No Retaliation. We continue to fight for protections based on caste and family status, as well as for alternate pathways when the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) takes more than 30 days to investigate a complaint. In addition, we are continuing to seek protections for graduate workers that file complaints against faculty and staff members. Management believes sufficient protections are already in place, even though OIE has also admitted in a previous bargaining session that there are “frequent fliers” about whom they repeatedly field complaints. Yesterday, the University’s lawyer also said that “in every workplace, there are some people with better interpersonal skills than others.” 

We spent most of the day working on our Health and Safety article, as management previously struck most of our workplace and laboratory safety proposals. Management agreed that graduate workers are eligible for workers compensation if they are injured while working, and to incorporate ergonomic standards into the workplace.

Another big win in this Health and Safety article is the University’s statement that they “will take all reasonable steps to proactively ensure employee health and safety.” This simple statement is something that management has repeatedly struck in their proposals, and something that we have repeatedly added back in. 

Management also returned their responses to our International Employee Rights article. In a win for our members, management has agreed to not release information to the Department of Homeland Security unless legally compelled to do so. However, of particular concern is management’s continued assertion that existing policies and procedures, including the entirety of the OIS office, can adequately meet international employees’ needs. Management has agreed that the University’s Office of International Services must respond to members in a timely manner, but refuses to set minimum staffing guidelines to ensure this happens. In addition, management refuses to offer direct tax advice to international employees, instead insisting on just one tax workshop each year instead of the two that are standardly available. Finally, JHU’s lawyer also stated that international employees unable to be present in the US are not members of the bargaining unit, and cannot derive the benefits of our contract.

As such, despite substantive progress in bargaining, we remain engaged in protracted fights over key workplace issues. Every division is organizing to show up for the contract we deserve. Join the Contract Action Team to help us engage every graduate worker in the fight: tinyurl.com/tru-cat

Our next bargaining session is on Monday. As always, you can look at the specific language of all articles at our Bargaining Tracker.

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR:

  • We reached a Tentative Agreement on the basic timeframe of our contract
  • We received counterproposals on Appointment Security and Discipline and Discharge; management still refuses basic protections for graduate workers.
  • We presented a counterproposal on International Employee Rights. 
  • Join us to plan our collective response. RSVP for your division’s upcoming meeting. 

Today, we reached a Tentative Agreement on the timeframe of the agreement for our contract. It is typical for unions to renegotiate at the end of each contract. We agreed that our contract will automatically renew every 12 months unless we agree to renegotiate. 

We received a counterproposal on our Discipline and Discharge article. Management continues to refuse protections to graduate workers who may be unfairly disciplined and kicked out of JHU due to their advisors’ abuse or bad intent. The administration maintains that all academic matters, including oral exams, must go through the currently ineffective academic grievance procedures, instead of our stronger union grievance procedure. We continue to get closer to a mutual understanding with management on our Appointment Security article. In their most recent counter, they accepted that workers will be offered alternative or later assignments to fulfill their degree requirements when required teaching assignments are insufficiently available. 

We gave management our counterproposal on International Employee Rights. Last Thursday, management’s proposal stated that they were not committed to supporting all employees and their families regardless of their immigration status. We continue to advocate for providing important resources to international employees, including legal aid, free ESL workshops, and tax assistance. To prevent the harassment and intimidation of our members, we proposed that international employees cannot be held or arrested by university security on the basis of immigration status alone. We are also fighting for the university not to release information to the Department of Homeland Security unless absolutely legally necessary. 

Join your division this week in planning the next stage of the contract fight! Please RSVP here for your divisional meeting. We will meet again with management at the bargaining table this Thursday. 

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

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR:

  • 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 bit.ly/div-rsvp

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

TL;DR:

  • 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 tinyurl.com/sep26GMM.

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 tinyurl.com/sep26GMM and bring a friend!

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

In solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee

TL;DR:

  • 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 tinyurl.com/sep26GMM.

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

TL;DR:

  • 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

TL;DR

  • 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

TL;DR

  • 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: tinyurl.com/aug-15-cat

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: tinyurl.com/aug-15-cat.

In Solidarity,

TRU-UE Bargaining Committee 

Written Update Bargaining Session #12

August 03, 2023

TL;DR

  • 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

TL;DR

  • 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 

tldr;

  • 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


TL;DR:

  • 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

tl;dr

  • 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

TL;DR

  • 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

TL;DR: 

  • 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

TL;DR

  • 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

TL;DR

  • 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 trujhu.org/bargaining-updates (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:

ARTICLE 5 – NO RETALIATION

ARTICLE 10 – WORKLOAD

ARTICLE 12 – APPOINTMENT SECURITY

ARTICLE 17 – NON-DISCRIMINATION

ARTICLE 18 – INCLUSIVE WORK ENVIRONMENT

ARTICLE 20 – PUBLIC SAFETY

ARTICLE 21 – HEALTH AND SAFETY

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 trujhu.org/bargaining-updates.

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