My name is Ray, and I’m a 4th year international GSW in the ECE department. I’m writing to tell you that, next Monday, December 4th, I’ll be voting in favor of ratifying the Tentative Agreement, in part because of the steps it makes toward securing dignity and justice for Graduate Student Workers (GSWs).

In my department, Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), we deal with discrimination and bullying all the time, especially against international GSWs. GSWs in ECE wrote about it this year in the leadup to our union election. Many of us have experienced workplace abuse because of the power that PIs have had over international GSWs due to our visa status, and this power imbalance so often leads to a toxic work environment where we feel our jobs are threatened unless we follow unreasonable demands from our supervisors. I know several GSWs who experienced workplace abuse but chose not to come forward because they didn’t have faith in the Title IX process, and feared retaliation. Bargaining Team member Yongqin Wang talked about this earlier this month.

What exactly did GSWs win on Nondiscrimination? In short, we won a more transparent and accountable process for seeing recourse. Before, GSWs facing workplace injustice had to rely on a Title IX process that included little transparency and zero outside accountability. 

Now, with this Tentative Agreement, GSWs will have the right to file a grievance under the contract along with Title IX, and have the enforceable right to interim measures on a reasonable timeline. Title IX cases will be far more transparent: Title IX will have to provide information on ongoing cases, and GSWs will have the right to bring a union rep with us throughout the process. GSWs will also be able to see justice from an independent arbitrator after the Title IX process wraps up, or if Title IX refuses to hear our case. Combined with the new protections from unjust termination and the protections for international GSWs who lose visa status, this Tentative Agreement is a big step forward for our rights as GSWs.

Ratifying the Tentative Agreement would mean immediately codifying these important protections. There are many reasons to vote yes, but I wanted to highlight this one in particular. This is a matter of dignity and justice in the workplace. I’m proud and relieved to have these provisions in the contract, and I’m voting yes because I know my department can’t go one more day without them.

In solidarity,