Ratification Vote FAQ

Read the full text of the Tentative Agreement here.

Read the Bargaining Team’s recommendation here.

See how much your stipend would increase through the 2026-2027 Academic Year under this Tentative Agreement here.

What is the ratification vote?

The ratification vote will determine whether or not the Tentative Agreement reached on November 26th is ratified as Graduate Student Workers’ first-ever union contract. All Graduate Student Workers are eligible to participate in the ratification vote. A simple majority of those voting is needed to ratify the Tentative Agreement and allow it to take effect. 

When and where will the ratification vote take place?

The ratification vote will open on Monday, December 4th at 9am and close on Wednesday, December 6th at 6pm. After the close of the vote, tallies will be distributed to Graduate Student Workers by approximately 10am, Thursday December 7th.

Voting will take place online, via Simply Voting. If you haven’t unsubscribed from the email list, you will receive a secure link to vote in your email. The email will contain a link to the voting website and a log-in specific to your email. Do not forward the email to anyone else.

Anti-spam laws prevent the union from sending emails to (or manually resubscribing) those who have unsubscribed. To resubscribe to the email list before Monday, December 4th, use this linkTo ensure you’re resubscribed in time, resubscribe by 6pm on Sunday, December 3rd.

If you’re not able to resubscribe before the voting period, or don’t have access to your ballot for any reason, fill out this Google Form. To ensure you receive your ballot before the voting period closes, request your ballot by 3pm on Wednesday, December 6th.

What happens if GSWs vote YES on the Tentative Agreement?

Voting yes, in favor of ratifying the contract, means voting in favor of adopting the Tentative Agreement as our first union contract. 

If a majority of those voting vote yes, the agreement would go into effect and GSWs would immediately be covered by the protections and guaranteed the rights included in the contract, including protections from unjust termination, paid time off, and the major improvements to protections from harassment and discrimination.

Spring semester fees covered by the contract would be guaranteed to be waived. The $400 lump sum payment would be distributed within 90 days. The immigration legal fund would be established within 90 days. The new childcare and healthcare benefits programs, as well as the stipend increases of 4.5%-12%, would go into effect beginning August, 2024. 

The bargaining team has unanimously recommended a YES vote.

What happens if GSWs vote NO on the Tentative Agreement?

Voting no, against ratifying the contract, means voting to reject the Tentative Agreement and indefinitely delaying the ratification of a first union contract. 

Because Graduate Student Workers would likely withdraw from previously agreed-upon Tentative Agreements and make additional demands, USC administration could, and likely would, do the same. USC admin could withdraw from any aspect of the agreement and refuse to agree to any and all language included in the current Tentative Agreement.

Bargaining this Tentative Agreement took eight months, and bargaining another contract could take just as long, shorter, or longer depending on Graduate Student Workers’ power. In the meantime, Graduate Student Workers would not be covered by a union contract. There is no guarantee that any new Tentative Agreement, if one could be reached, would be any better than the current Tentative Agreement. 

What improvements to wages would GSWs see under the Tentative Agreement?

In addition to the one-time $400 lump sum payment to be paid out within 90 days of ratification, every Graduate Student Worker would see a raise starting Fall 2024

For the 2024/25 Academic Year, every Graduate Student Worker would see a minimum 4.5% wage increase, with GSWs on the Graduate School minimum seeing a 12% raise, to a minimum of $40,000. Additionally, every GSW would see a minimum 3% increase for both the 2025/26 and 2026/27 Academic Years.

Finally, this article provides strong language guaranteeing timely and consistent pay to GSWs, so that we’re not paid late without seeing recourse.

To see how your stipend would increase over time under this Tentative Agreement, click here.

What improvements to workplace protections would GSWs see under the Tentative Agreement?

This Tentative Agreement makes major improvements to workplace protections, establishing many new protections and strengthening and expanding on existing ones. These protections are enforceable through the Grievance and Arbitration Process, a process that GSWs won in the contract that includes the right to appeal to an independent arbitrator when the contract is violated.

Below, you can see what GSWs currently have without a union contract, versus what GSWs would have if we ratify this Tentative Agreement.



GSWs experiencing discrimination or harassment in the workplace forced to rely on a Title IX process that included no independent accountability and little transparency

A more accountable process that includes:

  • The right to enforceable interim measures on a specific timeline

  • Industry-leading transparency on Title IX cases

  • The right to file a grievance when we face workplace harassment or discrimination

  • The right to independent arbitration after Title IX process — or if Title IX rejects taking up a GSW’s case

  • Commitments to peer-led trainings to prevent discrimination

No recourse or outside accountability for GSWs who are unjustly disciplined or terminated

Real recourse for unjustly terminated or disciplined GSWs through the grievance process

No real recourse for international GSWs who lose visa status

A legal fund to help international GSWs regain visa status, as well as re-hiring protections that ensure international GSWs don’t unfairly lose appointments

No real recourse for GSWs who are paid late

Contractual obligation by USC to pay GSWs on time and in the correct amount, recourse provided via the grievance process

No real recourse for disabled GSWs denied reasonable accommodations, lengthy and confusing processes

Guaranteed, grievable accommodations for disabled GSWs, which will ensure timely accommodations and a clear process

Unevenly enforced parental leave, often discriminatorily denied

Guaranteed one semester parental leave, best in industry

Unevenly enforced health leave, often discriminatorily denied

Guaranteed one semester health leave

No guaranteed paid sick days or bereavement days

Guaranteed five paid sick days and five paid bereavement days per Academic Year

No guaranteed holidays or paid time off

Paid time off following the academic calendar, 6+ weeks

No union rights on issues such as orientations

Union rights that empower GSWs to hold union orientations that educate GSWs on their rights under the contract

What improvements to worker benefits would GSWs see under the Tentative Agreement?

This Tentative Agreement provides for the creation of two major new benefits programs to help parent GSWs:

  • Childcare benefits as part of a $400,000 annual fund, which will provide up to $1,800 in childcare funding, per semester, per child, to parent GSWs
  • Dependent healthcare support as part of a $250,000 annually, which will provide up to $2,500 in dependent healthcare funding per semester per parent GSW

The Tentative Agreement also:

  • Guarantees GSW participation in the LA Metro U-PASS program at no cost
  • Codifies remission of all mandatory University fees
  • Guarantees 100% tuition remission for all GSWs
  • Provides for 200 GSWs to participate in the partial week parking permit program.

What are union dues / agency fees? When would GSWs start paying dues?

Under the Tentative Agreement, all GSWs covered by the union contract will pay a small portion of our paychecks to contribute financially to our union in the form of union dues (or agency fees, for non-members). Dues allow workers to pool our resources together and have a real say in our working conditions, with a strong union that can enforce GSWs’ rights. 

Union dues will power the core functions of our union, including GSWs’ ability to enforce the contract via arbitration. Dues will also fund training for GSW stewards, who will help other GSWs enforce the contract. Beyond this, union dues will help GSWs organize toward winning a second contract that builds on the first. GSWs will also democratically decide how to use union dues by voting on bylaws and voting to democratically elect our fellow GSWs to the union’s executive board.

Many GSWs would sign up to be a member of the union, and elect to pay union dues (1.44% of gross pay). Some GSWs would opt out of membership and elect to instead pay an agency fee (1.17% of gross pay). GSWs would pay either dues or agency fees, not both.

Under the Tentative Agreement, dues / agency fees would not go into effect immediately. Dues will take effect at least 60 days after ratification. 

To learn more about union dues, check out the Dues/Agency Shop FAQ.

How does this tentative agreement apply to fellows? Do fellows have to pay dues? 

Who is included in the bargaining unit (i.e. those covered by the union contract) is outlined in the Recognition article. The agreement states that internal fellows in STEM fields are included in the unit, that fellows in the arts & humanities are not included in the unit, and that external fellows in STEM are in dispute. “In dispute” means that Graduate Student Workers and the university could not reach an agreement on the status of external fellows in STEM, and therefore will escalate the dispute to the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) for a hearing. 

Fellows included in the unit are fully covered by the contract. Fellows who are excluded or in dispute are not technically covered by the contract, although in many cases, will see the same benefits and have access to the same protections. It is unlikely that the university would withhold wage increases from fellows who are excluded from the unit, but it is possible.