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Brown, GLO continue contract negotiations

Parties have tentatively agreed on four articles, still discussing pay raise, worker protections

<p>Though the previous contract expired at the end of June, almost all of its clauses will continue to apply until the new contract is agreed upon, said Communications Coordinator Kate Clark GS.</p>

Though the previous contract expired at the end of June, almost all of its clauses will continue to apply until the new contract is agreed upon, said Communications Coordinator Kate Clark GS.

The Graduate Labor Organization continued renegotiating its contract with the University through the summer, tentatively agreeing on four articles in a new contract. The two parties began bargaining in February and have met regularly since — and have still not agreed on higher wages or a new policy surrounding harassment and discrimination. The next bargaining session is scheduled for Sept. 20. 

According to Maria Arievitch GS, one of the union’s bargaining co-chairs, GLO and the University recently agreed on an article regarding leave and time off. "We’re really excited to have expanded a lot of grad worker rights in terms of different types of leave that they can take throughout their time at Brown," Arievitch said.

But Areivitch emphasized that a tentative agreement doesn’t mean any clause is finalized. “You can tentatively agree on each individual article, but that leads up to a full bargaining unit vote on the entirety of the contract,” she said.

GLO and the University also reached a tentative agreement on a “No Strike-No Lockout” article, which prevents the union from striking and the University from locking out workers at any point.


Additionally, parties have negotiated a “big article on appointments and assignments,” which clarifies teaching assistants’ and researchers’ roles. Both sides also tentatively agreed on an article detailing “union rights and responsibilities,” which include solidifying “the union’s right to spread information on campus, (permitting) access to workplaces to be able to talk to workers and codif(ying) language around the ability to access buildings and table at orientation,” Arievitch said. 

“While we have continued to meet with GLO representatives … and have reached tentative agreements on a number of specific provisions (for example, on leaves of absence and time off), the larger economic issues remain points to resolve,” University Spokesperson Brian Clark wrote in an email to The Herald. 

Though negotiations briefly paused as students returned to campus, Arievitch expressed that GLO is “really starting to hammer down and focus on our top priorities for this contract.”

“We want real stability for graduate workers throughout their time at Brown,” GLO Communications Coordinator Kate Clark GS said. “We want a raise that allows grads to actually pay for things like rent and electricity, which have gone up a lot in the last two years.”

In June, the University proposed a 6.25% raise for bargaining unit members; GLO countered with a 17.8% raise, down from their initial ask of 25%, according to a bargaining update released by the union.

According to Arievitch, GLO plans to focus on “stipends and health care, the harassment and discrimination process” as well as “workplace safety and COVID protections and protections for our non-citizen and international students” in coming negotiations.

Kate Clark additionally discussed the “equal pay issue” as another priority, referring to disparities in compensation based on how a graduate worker is classified. “When we say we want equal pay, we mean that we should be paid the same amount no matter if we are teaching or a research assistant or on fellowship,” she said. “Last spring, Brown decided to impose unequal pay on grads, depending on if you’re on fellowship.” 

Students on fellowships receive full tuition, health insurance, a health services fee and a stipend to “devote themselves to research, scholarship or the completion of their dissertations” and are “not allowed to hold other work appointments,” according to the Graduate School’s website.

According to Kate Clark, this means fellows are not covered by the bargaining agreement being negotiated and the University separately decides their raises. “That is something we entirely disagree with wholeheartedly, and we are working really hard to get all grads to be paid the same amount,” she said. “The work that we do as researchers brings value to Brown, and we should be compensated accordingly.”

“The collective bargaining agreement in place between Brown and GLO applies only to graduate students when they are in bargaining unit positions as RAs, TAs or proctors,” Brian Clark wrote. “By law, students on fellowship appointments (and therefore not in RA, TA or proctor positions) are not employees and are not in the bargaining unit — this was a legal point affirmed recently by the National Labor Relations Board Region 1 involving MIT.”


In March, the NLRB ruled that MIT’s graduate students funded by fellowships are not employees, in part on the basis that “the compensation received by the fellows is not directly tied to completing particular tasks, as directed; rather, it is tied to maintaining academic good standing.”

“Last spring, the University established the base stipend for students on doctoral fellowships in 2023-24 as $43,791, a rate that is among the top of all institutions across the country. This is in addition to extensive benefits supporting quality of life,” he added. 

Contract expiration and interim wages

GLO’s previous collective bargaining agreement, which was adopted in 2020, expired June 30, but Kate Clark noted that it “doesn't mean that we aren’t covered by our (old) contract.”

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“We did not agree to extend — or haven’t agreed to extend — our last contract,” she said. Still, all of its articles, with the exception of the “No Strike-No Lockout” and grievance procedure clauses, apply. Those articles will remain enforced until a new contract is negotiated, she explained. 

“We have made sure to make our body know that their day-to-day life is not going to be changed by whether the contract has expired or not,” Arievitch said. “We are negotiating a new and better contract for them, and as soon as that's in effect, anything that needs to be retroactively applied, like the raise, will be.” 

Separately from the current or future contract, the University and GLO came to an interim agreement this summer providing for the continued payment of base stipends.

“Graduate students performing instructional and research services will continue to be paid in July and August, as long as they continue serving in accordance with their appointments,” former Interim Provost Larry Larson, Dean of the Graduate School Thomas Lewis and Executive Vice President for Planning and Policy Russell Carey ’91 MA’06 wrote in a letter sent to students June 28. “Graduate students working as RAs, TAs and proctors will receive the same 3.25% increase in stipends that were approved for 2023-24 for graduate students holding fellowships.”

Since the publication of the letter, “Brown and GLO extended the interim agreement on base stipends through the fall semester, with a Jan. 15, 2024 expiration,” Brian Clark wrote. 

Katie Jain

Katie Jain is a University News editor from New Jersey overseeing the graduate student life beat. She is a junior concentrating in International and Public Affairs and History.

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