Community Message to Graduate Organized Laborers at Dartmouth (GOLD)

To the Dartmouth community, 

In July 2022, graduate students in the Graduate Organized Laborers at Dartmouth (GOLD) organization voted to become affiliated with the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) and launched an authorization card campaign to drive support for a legally recognized union to act as the exclusive representative for graduate students at Dartmouth in all employment-related negotiations. We respect our graduate students' advocacy for themselves and appreciate their desire to create the best possible graduate student experience.

We want to emphasize that Dartmouth values freedom of expression in all forms and we recognize the diverse viewpoints of our community. Indeed, it is our belief that this diversity of voices, opinions, and backgrounds is a great strength. We are proud that graduate programs at Dartmouth are tailored to a diverse academic community with an eye to addressing current and future global challenges.

On Feb. 14, GOLD-UE requested Dartmouth voluntarily recognize a graduate student union. We have carefully considered the matter and we have concluded that a determination of the union's majority status should be made pursuant to an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board in accordance with its representation procedures. Such an important decision should be made by student workers in a secret ballot election allowing all eligible students to express their will and representing a fundamental principle of democratic decision-making.

Dartmouth is fully supportive of the graduate students in our community, and through the Guarini School, working in collaboration with the executive board of the Graduate Student Council, we have launched initiatives supporting and enriching the experience of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars on our campus. This collaboration has produced positive results including stipend increases, policy revisions, reinstatement of the Ombuds Office, reductions in health benefits costs, expansion of graduate housing, a supplemental payment of $2,000, and improvements in mental health support.

These successes, and others, have been facilitated by the relationship between Dartmouth and its graduate students—one in which graduate students are treated as trainees, and emphasizes a relationship unlike that of an employee-employer. At Dartmouth, all PhD and a number of master's students receive full tuition scholarships and stipends to help offset cost-of-living expenses. Unlike the situation at many institutions, stipends for these 800 graduate students are guaranteed for up to five years as long as students maintain satisfactory progress toward their degree, and receiving these stipends is not dependent on research or being a teaching assistant.

While Dartmouth has not historically viewed graduate students as employees, a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board in 2016 supports the right of graduate students to unionize, and Dartmouth respects this right. Nevertheless, Dartmouth feels that unionization is counterproductive to addressing the needs of our graduate students, which are better served by the effective partnership we currently have with the graduate student community. Dartmouth believes that collective bargaining may slow down individualized response to situations that arise and would introduce additional cost, time, and bureaucracy to a system that is already working efficiently. We would like to emphasize that if a majority of students voting in such an election are in favor of unionization, the union will be recognized immediately and include all graduate student workers, including those who did not vote or do not want to be in a union.

We encourage all students to look carefully at all facts when considering how, and by whom, they are represented, to understand the different processes for advocacy and negotiation, including costs and benefits and time to decision, and to consider the variety of channels currently available, which could be reduced in the event of unionization because of the exclusive representation role that the union would legally hold.

In closing, we would like to reaffirm Dartmouth's commitment to providing the best possible experience to our graduate students, not just in world-class research training and professional development programs, but also with respect to fostering a supportive and inclusive community dedicated to the well-being and quality of life of all our current and future students. Dartmouth respects the right of all eligible students to decide for themselves how to vote and we encourage you to make an informed choice concerning this important decision.

Frequently Asked Questions About Graduate Student Unionization

David Kotz, Provost