Stanford University grad students vote to unionize for better wages, working conditions

Lauren Martinez Image
Friday, July 7, 2023
Stanford graduate workers vote to unionize for better wages
Stanford University graduate workers voted to unionize in a landslide win on Thursday.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- To make an elite research institution like Stanford better - that's why graduate student instructors and researchers say they voted to unionize.

Monica Vidaurri, a Ph.D. student in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, said a key contract goal is higher wages. In the past three years, Vidaurri said their wages are not keeping up with inflation.

"Stanford is both our employer and our landlord," Vidaurri said.

Out of 3,400 members, it was a landslide win by 94% voting yes to unionize on Thursday.

Vidaurri said wages for grad students range. Those in the education department can make $38,000, those in bio-life sciences can make around $48,000, and those in computer engineering can make $60,000.

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"Contrary to what people think about Stanford, most of it is grad workers come from working class backgrounds and so our parents really can't help us out, out here," Vidaurri said.

Vidaurri said it's important to have the living conditions they need in order to do their jobs the best they can.

"We've been going to the food pantry, we don't have proper healthcare, my child can't go to daycare - we've been saying all this stuff for years and Stanford still hasn't listened so when we don't have our needs met the quality of our research also goes down," Vidaurri said.

In a statement the University says in part:

Thank you to all those who participated in the election and to those who provided support for the election process. As university leaders, we will continue to respect, support, and work to advance the needs of our graduate student community.

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Kamila Thompson, a first year Electrical Engineering Ph.D. student moved from Columbus, Ohio. She got a campus job in order to help with expenses.

"Really it's an amazing opportunity but if going to Stanford costs this much - it's something that maybe I wish I would've known," Thompson said.

Emi Soroka is finishing up her second year as an Aero/Astro Ph.D. student. She said some of her fellow graduate students are dealing with abusive advisors who overwork grad students.

"Yes, we are here to work but also deserve to have rest time, to have vacation time and right now there's no protections against that kind of overwork," Soroka said.

Next steps from the union will be collecting results from a bargaining survey out now for any graduate student to fill out. After the survey they will elect a bargaining committee. They are unionizing under Electric Union workers.

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