Undergraduate computer science teaching assistants voted 303-28 in favor of unionizing, a National Labor Relations Board representative announced following the tabulation of votes cast in Thursday’s election. 331 total votes were cast, with 91.5% in favor and 8.5% opposed.
The decisive victory for the Teaching Assistant Labor Organization followed nearly three months of campaigning — as well as organizing efforts that stretch back at least to October 2022 — to create the first undergraduate labor union on campus. TALO’s victory makes it the second student bargaining unit on campus, following the Graduate Labor Organization’s successful formation in 2018.
While TALO will unionize as part of GLO to gain access to more resources and ensure stability, it “will have a separate contract and bargain with Brown independently,” according to a TALO Instagram post.
The announcement followed a day of in-person, anonymous voting, which took place from 12-3 p.m. and from 5-8 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Sciences Library under the supervision of NLRB representatives.
All undergraduate, meta and head teaching assistants who are currently working were eligible to vote in the election, as were all undergraduate, meta and head teaching assistants who worked in the fall 2022 semester, The Herald previously reported.
“I'm just so proud of everyone in this room,” Galen Winsor ’22.5, a graduated TALO organizer, told The Herald after the vote tally was announced.
“This was not easy,” he said. “This took a ton of work. And even though the count ended up being incredibly on our side, that just reflects how much everyone had to put into it.”
TALO is “looking forward to making TA working conditions better and delivering the world-class education that Brown promises,” said Colton Rusch ’23, a TALO organizer, in an interview with The Herald after the vote tabulation.
He added that TALO is “very grateful for everyone who has gotten us here, and overall thankful for Brown as well, and we're looking forward to a cooperative bargaining experience with them.”
Once the NLRB officially certifies the election, “the University will recognize the Graduate Labor Organization as the exclusive representative of computer science TAs in the bargaining unit on employment matters,” wrote University Spokesperson Brian Clark in an email to The Herald.
“After the NLRB’s certification, and per the law and conventions governing collective bargaining, the union will present the University with an intent to bargain,” Clark wrote. “When that happens, the parties will work cooperatively to establish a schedule for negotiations over the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.”
“We look forward to working productively, collegially and in good faith around the important matters of terms and conditions of employment for the members of the bargaining unit,” Clark added. “The undergraduate TA program in computer science is a distinguished program at Brown with a long and valued history, and the University and the Department of Computer Science remain fully committed to ensuring that it is a valuable academic experience for generations of students to come.”
“TALO’s win is a win for GLO,” wrote GLO President Sherena Razek GS in an email to The Herald. “More empowered workers on this campus means we will only be stronger together.”
“It has been truly inspiring to witness (TALO’s) campaign for their union,” Razek continued. “It is a remarkable win for them, for us, for the higher education labor movement and for the horizon of tech workers trying to transform their troubled industry as well.”
CS TAs launched their campaign to unionize last December in order to negotiate with the University on issues such as pay and working conditions, The Herald previously reported. TALO filed its official petition with the NLRB in January after the University initially declined its request for voluntary recognition in December.
Before the election, TALO had received authorization cards from over 70% of TAs who worked during the fall semester and over 50% of TAs who are currently working, The Herald previously reported. TALO and University lawyers then negotiated an election agreement in February, which set the date and parameters for Thursday’s election.
“After all the conversations that (TALO has) had, it's just clear that this is what the majority of (CS TAs) want and it's what the majority of us think will lead to a better future for everyone,” said Eva Lau ’23, a TALO organizer.
Next, TALO will “figure out what it is we want to bargain for” by including all CS TAs in the bargaining process, Lau said.
“This is the first step in a wall-to-wall undergraduate union,” said Marshal King ’25, an organizer for Student Labor Alliance, in an interview with The Herald after the vote tabulation.
“This has been a year in the making,” Rusch said. “I really hope it's part of a longer labor movement on campus.”
Sam Levine is a University News editor from Brooklyn, New York overseeing the staff and student labor and on-campus activism beats. He is a junior concentrating in International and Public Affairs.
Ashley Cai is a Senior Staff Writer from Los Altos, California covering the staff and student labor beat. She is a Brown-RISD Dual Degree studying computer science, IAPA and graphic design. She is also a member of The Herald's Tech Team.