Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

What is NYU Researchers United-UAW?

We are academic researchers forming a union in order to improve our research and working conditions at NYU.

Despite our diversity of titles, the labor that we do day-to-day is similar and it makes sense for all of us to be part of the same effort to unionize and improve our shared working conditions. Our work as academic researchers not only drives the research mission at NYU, but also produces scientific and medical knowledge that can benefit the whole world. While we work across many subfields, our dedication to research unites us all. By forming a researchers’ union, we can build a stronger, democratic voice for researchers at NYU, with more power to negotiate for improvements and to secure our rights and working conditions into a legally-binding contract. 

Additionally, by working together with other academic unions across the country and NYC such as those at Mount Sinai, Columbia University, and Fordham University, we can also build political power beyond NYU to impact funding, visa, and other policies at the national, state, and local levels that shape our experience in Academia and as scientists.

Why are we forming a union at NYU?

Unions are simply put, an organization of workers aiming to democratically improve working conditions. The ways that workers have historically improved their lives through unions are myriad and include weekends, sick leave, and better pay, among many other benefits. 

As academic researchers at NYU, our employer—NYU—currently has unilateral say over our pay, healthcare, housing, and work conditions. They set the terms, which often vary by title, department, campus, and they can change them at any time. But with a union, we would be able to democratically determine our goals, bargain collectively with NYU over our working conditions, and put what we negotiate into a binding contract.

Researchers have already been active in advocating for improvements to our working conditions at NYU. In 2022, researchers successfully organized petitions and walkouts to prevent David Sabatini from being hired at NYU Langone, and to extend equitable COVID-19 bonuses to student researchers and Postdoctoral Fellows after NYU only offered them to Postdoctoral Associates, among other issues. In both of these cases, our collective efforts resulted in NYU changing their position. Through collective bargaining we can make even greater gains as researchers by negotiating as equals with the NYU administration. 

Would I be included in NYU Researchers United?

NYU Researchers United seeks to represent anyone who holds an academic researcher position at NYU. This includes postdoctoral associates and fellows, staff scientists and researchers, and student employees providing research services who are not already represented by the Graduate Student Organizing Committee-UAW (GSOC-UAW). If you are a researcher at NYU and have questions about your eligibility or want to sign up, please contact

What is collective bargaining?

Collective bargaining is a process, protected by US law, that equalizes the power relationship between employees and their employer. 

Under collective bargaining, NYU researchers would elect representatives to negotiate on equal footing with the NYU Administration and put the terms of our employment into a legally binding contract. Through collective bargaining, postdocs, graduate student employees, and other academic workers in the UAW have successfully negotiated improved wages and benefits, stronger protections against discrimination and harassment, expanded family-friendly benefits like paid leave and childcare subsidies, and other important provisions.

What is the difference between NYU Researchers United and Graduate Student Organizing Committee-UAW (GSOC-UAW)?

Graduate Student Organizing Committee-UAW (GSOC-UAW) is the union at NYU representing all graduate students who teach classes, graduate assistants, and research assistants in certain departments. GSOC-UAW does not include research assistants at Tandon, or research assistants in the Biology, Chemistry, Neural Science, Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science and Psychology departments. By forming a union that includes research assistants in these departments, and working alongside postdocs and staff scientists who have not had union representation at NYU so far, we can increase all NYU academic workers’ ability to bargain collectively for improvements. 

Our goal is to ensure that all researchers at NYU have the ability to gain better workplace protections, benefits, and pay together through collective bargaining.

What is the difference between student and postdoc advocacy groups and a union?

Both a strong union and strong researcher advocacy groups such as the NYU Postdoc Council, NYU Graduate Student Council, and other departmental groups for students and researchers can play a critical role in improving the lives of NYU researchers. While these groups are university-sponsored and supported committees that provide important opportunities for researchers to participate in numerous social and career development opportunities, as well as advocacy efforts, they are not alternatives to a union.

While advocacy groups can make recommendations to the institution on behalf of researchers, they cannot engage in collective bargaining. Unions and advocacy groups often work together at academic institutions where both exist.

Doesn’t GSOC-UAW already represent graduate student research assistants?

NYURU-UAW seeks to represent graduate student RAs who are not included in the existing Graduate Student Organizing Committee-UAW bargaining unit.  GSOC-UAW does not currently represent graduate RAs in the Washington Square departments of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, Neural Science, Computer Science and Math; graduate student RAs at NYU Tandon; or graduate student RAs at the NYU School of Medicine.  This bargaining unit is defined in a historic 2013 agreement between GSOC-UAW and the NYU administration that established – at that time – the only graduate employee union at any private university in the US.

While advocacy groups can make recommendations to the institution on behalf of researchers, they cannot engage in collective bargaining. Unions and advocacy groups often work together at academic institutions where both exist.

Why and how did we choose the UAW?

Postdocs at NYU started to discuss forming a union after our postdoctoral colleagues at Columbia won their first union contract in the summer of 2020. At the same time, researchers began to organize more broadly during the COVID-19 pandemic due to inadequate safety measures and access to PPE, as well as a lack of sufficient support for some of the most vulnerable members of our community, including parents and those of us on visas. In September of 2021, after realizing that the labor conditions of postdocs, graduate research assistants, and staff scientists are all very similar and that none of us are currently represented by a union, we decided to join forces to unionize researchers across these groups.

After multiple conversations with parent unions that represent academic workers across New York City, we decided to partner with the United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) in the spring of 2022. 

We can benefit from the institutional knowledge and organizing experience of NYU academic workers who are already represented by UAW, including student assistants in GSOC-UAW Local 2110 and adjunct faculty in ACT-UAW Local 7902.The UAW represents more than 100,000 academic workers across the United States, including more postdocs and graduate student employees than any other union. In the last eight years alone over 40,000 academic workers around the country have chosen to become part of the UAW, nearly 10,000 of them from the New York City area, including at Columbia, The New School, and Mount Sinai.

Read more here about UAW success helping academic workers negotiate concrete improvements to wages, benefits and workplace rights.

The UAW has particular experience with helping to negotiate and enforce strong contracts across academic researcher titles. Recently, postdocs and associate researchers at Columbia University in NYC voted by 68% to form their union with the UAW and ratified their first contract by 99% with a majority participating. UConn postdocs overwhelmingly approved their first contract in 2020. Postdocs at the University of Washington voted by an overwhelming 89% percent to form their union with the UAW. Postdocs, graduate student employees, and other research staff are all part of the UAW at both the University of Washington and the University of California, and actively coordinate to negotiate improvements and enforce their contractual rights. We hope to join them in representing the voices and needs of researchers across titles at NYU.

In the fall of 2022, 48,000 UC academic workers including more than 17,000 student researchers and 11,000 postdocs, and other academic researchers went on strike to win improvements to pay, benefits, and workplace rights. Postdocs and academic researchers voted to ratify their contract by 89.4% and 79.5%, respectively, with student researchers voting for their contract by 69%. In NYC, 3,000 Columbia graduate student employees voted by an overwhelming 72% to join the UAW and recently approved their first union contract by 97.6%, after voting to reject an initial proposed agreement by 53% and continue bargaining.

In addition to drawing on the UAW’s wide experience bargaining contracts with academic administrations, we can exercise a stronger political voice through the UAW. With active members at more than 45 major campuses across the US, the UAW has become a strong advocate on policy issues that matter to us as academics, such as federal support for science funding and enhancing the rights of international research scientists.

International Researchers

What are the rights of international researchers to join the union?

International postdocs and researchers have the same legal right to join a union as US citizens. International researchers have been instrumental in organizing and running the University of California postdocs union (UAW Local 5810) and the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers (CPW-UAW Local 4100) Unionization can result in protections that are especially valuable for international academic employees.

How can international researchers benefit from joining the UAW?

With roughly 100,000 academic workers, the UAW has become a powerful organization advocating  to improve conditions for international scholars and students. For years the UAW has fought hard to ensure that the contributions of guest workers are elevated and that the terms and conditions of their employment are improved. Recently the UAW helped lead the fight against Executive Orders issued by former President Trump that targeted international scholars and students.

In October of 2020, UAW Academic Workers mobilized against a proposed rule by ICE to shorten visa stays for international scholars; thousands of public comments were submitted, including by the President of the UAW International. In July of 2020, thanks to direct action by UAW Academic Workers across the country, in addition to efforts by allies at universities and in government, ICE backed down from its directive to deport international students taking online classes due to COVID-19. In 2017, the UAW International filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case challenging the Trump administration’s travel ban. The UAW also helped lead the fight to enhance the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program as an important path for international student workers to work in the US after completion of their PhD.

UAW academic unions also provide more resources for researchers on visas at the local level. Columbia University postdocs have used their union to fight for international researchers who could not return to the US during the COVID-19 pandemic to be able to work remotely and, more recently, put pressure on the Columbia administration and engaged allies in Congress to support researchers stranded abroad.

Looking Forward

Once we form a union, how do we participate in the process?

NYU researchers make up our union. After NYU Researchers United-UAW has been recognized by NYU or certified by the NLRB following an election, we will start the process of negotiating a contract with the administration:

We elect a bargaining committee from among NYU researchers;

Based on surveys we have filled out, the committee will develop initial bargaining goals; we vote to ratify these goals;

The committee will meet with NYU administration representatives to negotiate in pursuit of our bargaining goals;

When our committee has negotiated a tentative agreement with NYU they feel they can recommend, researchers will vote whether to ratify it as our first contract;

The bargaining committee will be aided throughout by experienced negotiators and other UAW representatives;

After the contract is ratified, the membership will elect representatives who help run the Local Union, ensure that NYU does not violate the terms of the contract, and represent members with grievances and other workplace issues.

How long will it take to bargain our first contract with NYU?

The length of time necessary to negotiate a strong first contract has depended on the strength of the campaign and the willingness of the employer to bargain in good faith. NYU could help ensure a timely process by agreeing on a fair and efficient timeframe with regularly scheduled bargaining sessions and a strong commitment to reaching a fair agreement.

At other major research institutions where postdocs have formed unions, researchers have been able to negotiate significant improvements despite facing opposition from their employers. Postdocs at Columbia University, University of Connecticut, University of Washington, and University of California negotiated for 16 months, 13 months, 13 months, and 18 months respectively. But it is also possible to negotiate much more quickly. For example, with a serious commitment to reach a fair agreement by the administration, 4,000 student employees at the University of Washington negotiated their first contract in just under two months.


Can the union guarantee any specific improvements?

Researchers make up our union and will democratically prioritize which improvements to pursue in contract negotiations. With a union, researchers will negotiate as equals with the administration for the changes we want to make.

A contract will legally secure those improvements against unilateral changes by the administration. Currently, the administration can change policies and benefits unilaterally, without any obligation to consult those affected.

With a union, we will vote on our contract. If we are unsatisfied with a contract, we can vote against it and go back to the negotiating table to work out a better agreement.

What improvements have researchers bargained for at other universities?

Researchers have negotiated improvements to their salaries, benefits, family-friendly policies, and workspace and materials; have established fair processes for addressing sexual and other forms of discrimination and harassment; and have negotiated greater job stability and protections for international researchers. 

Read about what Postdoctoral Researchers have won at other universities:

Columbia University Postdoctoral Researchers (UAW Local 4100)

University of California Postdocs (UAW Local 5810)

University of California Academic Researchers (UAW Local 5810)

University of Washington Postdocs (UAW Local 4121)

University of Connecticut Postdocs (UAW Local 6950)

Read about what Graduate Student Researchers have won at other universities:

University of California Student Researchers (UAW 2865)

University of Washington (UAW Local 4121)

University of Massachusetts Amherst (GEO-UAW Local 2322)

Columbia University (UAW Local 2710)

Harvard University (UAW Local 5118)

New York University (GSOC-UAW 2110)

What are union dues and when would we start paying?

Membership dues are important because they provide the resources necessary for effective representation. In the UAW, we do not pay dues until we have gone through the bargaining process and voted democratically to approve our first contract. Dues are critical for providing us with independent resources that are not controlled by NYU: we use them to ensure we have appropriate legal, bargaining, community and staff support to represent all researchers. UAW membership dues are currently 1.44% of gross monthly income and can only be increased by membership action (the membership in a few local unions, for example, have voted to increase dues above 1.44% to have more resources).

No one can be required to become a member of the Union after we have a contract. In most contracts, since everyone in the bargaining unit must receive all of the benefits of the contract, non-members are generally required to pay a comparable “fair share” fee, so the cost of representation is shared equally. The inclusion of a similar provision at NYU would be something we decide as part of our bargaining agenda, would be subject to negotiation with NYU, and contingent on ratification as part of our contract.

Most academic worker unions have such a provision in the contract because it means we have more power and more resources available to enforce our rights under our contract, campaign for the best possible future contracts with the administration and help other academic workers form their own unions. Under the UAW, there is a one-time initiation fee, which ranges from $10 to $50 and is determined democratically in local union bylaws approved by members.

The value of increased wages and benefits in the first contract typically outweighs the cost of dues, often leading to overwhelming majority approval of those agreements. For example, the Columbia postdocs went from having the lowest minimum salaries for postdocs in NYC to the highest in the first year of their contract, an increase of between 14.5% to 20%, along with guaranteed annual increases and other improvements. The base wages for UC postdocs have gone up an average of 45% since they ratified their first contract in 2010.

Where would our union dues go?

It takes resources to have a strong union, from the earliest stages of forming a union for the first time, to bargaining and campaigning for the first contract, to enforcing rights under an existing contract, and advocating on policy issues that matter to membership. Dues provide those resources. See below for more information.

Dues generally cover all of the day to day costs to have a strong union, including paying for legal representation, staffing, rent, equipment, and supplies.

Most of the day-to-day work enforcing the contract and representing our membership is provided by the Local Union. Under the UAW Constitution, the Local Union automatically keeps 27% of dues money to support its expenses: staffing for representation, rent, equipment, supplies, etc. The rest of the dues is allocated to the International Union’s General Fund (26%), Strike and Defense Fund (44%), and Community Action Program (CAP) (3%). NYU Researchers United would be supported by these funds as described below. Depending on the overall financial health of the Strike and Defense Fund (if its net worth is $500M or greater), an additional allocation of dues called a “rebate” is given back to the Local and International Union. So, in typical months, the portion of dues retained by the Local Union is roughly 37%.

For some great examples of UAW local union helping workers defend their rights, see this summary of successful grievance handling at the University of Washington, or these stories about unionized postdocs fighting pregnancy discrimination at the University of California, or how graduate assistants at UConn took on sexual harassment.

The portion of dues allocated to the International Union would support NYU researchers in the following ways.

Technical experts to help negotiate on equal terms with NYU:

Health insurance experts who can take on the University’s consultants in order to pursue the best benefits for the best price

Researchers who can help analyze institute finances.

Legal advice where necessary

Experienced negotiators to help achieve our goals, both at the bargaining table and in terms of developing an overall campaign to win a strong contract

Support for new organizing campaigns (for example, the resources supporting NYU Researchers United-UAW come from existing UAW members’ dues)

Political action: 3 percent of dues go toward the UAW Community Action Program (CAP), which supports progressive community and political action, including legislative and other policy advocacy on issues that matter to UAW members. For example, the UAW advocates strongly for fair, comprehensive immigration reform and expanded federal support for research funding, among other topics. [NOTE: legally, dues money cannot be used for federal campaign contributions, such as the presidential race—that money comes from members’ voluntary contributions to the UAW Voluntary Community Action Program or V-CAP, which is separate from, and in addition to, dues.]

I heard an administrator say If we unionize and negotiate pay increases, we might have fewer jobs overall. Is that true?

We have not seen this happen at other institutions. Because all union decisions will be made by researchers, we will collectively decide what to ask for in bargaining at NYU and, ultimately, vote whether to approve any agreement as a contract. As a union we will have greater access to NYU’s financial information that affects researchers, which will make it possible for us to be well-informed and conscientious as we engage in bargaining.

Both the research workers and the administration have to agree on a contract and we all share an interest in preserving the quality of research happening at NYU. Collective bargaining simply means we can negotiate on equal footing in order to hold NYU more accountable to do the best it can do.

Will forming a union cause NYU to reduce benefits or lower pay?

Once a union is formed, NYU cannot unilaterally alter any terms and conditions of employment—including pay and benefits. Instead, changes to pay and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment are subject to collective bargaining, through which NYU administrators must negotiate in good faith with researchers, and researchers will democratically approve a binding, enforceable contract containing those terms and conditions.

Will we have to strike?

With a union, all union decisions – including the decision about whether or not to strike – will be made democratically by researchers. With a union, researchers will collectively decide what to ask for in bargaining and whether or not a strike is necessary.

A strike is a very powerful tool for unionized workers, but a strike would only occur if union members decide a strike is necessary. The decision to strike is made collectively; under the UAW Constitution, two-thirds of workers participating in a strike authorization vote must vote yes in order to authorize a strike. While a strike is most effective if we all participate, it is an individual decision whether or not to do so.

While strikes are rare, it is not uncommon that workers decide it is necessary to prepare for a possible strike in order to convince a university to reach a reasonable agreement during negotiations. At the University of California, for example, the academic researcher union in UAW Local 5810, reached an agreement with the administration after a majority of researchers voted to authorize a strike. In 2014, the NYU teaching assistant student union GSOC-UAW Local 2110 reached an agreement with NYU after a majority of graduate employees authorized the bargaining committee to call a strike if they deemed one necessary. Columbia postdocs won their first contract shortly after hundreds of postdocs informed the administration that they would start preparing for a strike authorization vote if Columbia did not make greater progress in contract negotiations.

In 2021, in response to stalled contract negotiations, 96% of voting GSOC members authorized the bargaining committee to set a strike deadline, and GSOC members went on strike for three weeks at the end of spring semester before a tentative agreement was reached. The resulting contract, ratified by 99% of GSOC voters, included a 30% increase in the rate for hourly workers and a significant expansion of health and childcare benefits.

In the fall of 2022, 48,000 UC academic workers including more than 17,000 student researchers and 11,000 postdocs, and other academic researchers went on strike to win improvements to pay, benefits, and workplace rights. Postdocs and academic researchers voted to ratify their contract by 89.4% and 79.5%, respectively with student researchers and academic researchers voting for their contracts by 69%.