Information about USC-UAW negotiations

On February 27, 2023, the Graduate Student Workers Organizing Committee – United Auto Workers (GSWOC-UAW) was certified as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative of USC graduate students. This means that, subject to limited exceptions, Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Assistant Lecturers, and those on training grants and holding fellowships in the STEM disciplines, are now represented by the union when they are enrolled in USC degree programs and providing instructional or research services for the University.

USC deeply values the contributions that graduate students make to its research and teaching missions, and we are proud to provide firsthand experiences that serve as excellent preparation for a range of career outcomes. The University remains steadfast in its commitment to support, mentor and prepare graduate students for future success.

We encourage all graduate students to learn as much as they can about what it means to be in a union. Likewise, we encourage graduate faculty members to educate themselves on this topic. Please use this site as a key resource to stay informed.

Status of Negotiations

No post found!

Frequently Asked Questions


Union Basics

Who is included in the bargaining unit?

All graduate students enrolled at the University of Southern California (USC) who are employed by USC in teaching-related jobs, including:

  • Teaching Assistants and Assistant Lecturers (job codes 032010 and 032014), and/or employed by USC in research-related jobs as follows:
    • Research Assistants;
    • Those compensated through training grants; and
    • Fellows (or those receiving fellowship funding) in one of USC’s STEM disciplines.

Those who are excluded from the bargaining unit include:  All other employees; graduate students enrolled at USC who are fellows (or receiving fellowship funding) in one of USC’s Humanities or Social Sciences who do not currently perform research-related services for the University in the Marshall School’s PhD Program in Business Administration Concentration in

Management and Organization in the Micro Organizational Behavior track; students employed

as Student Worker (job code 032025), Student Worker, Research (job code 032024), or Student

Worker, Supervisor (job code 032026), who do not also have a concurrent position included in the description above; and guards and supervisors as defined by National Labor Relations Act.

What is a union?

A union is an organization that, in exchange for the dues paid by the individuals they represent, serve as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for a group of employees, negotiating with the employer seeking agreement on the terms and conditions of employment. Following a secret ballot on USC campuses on February 15 and 16, 2023, a majority of eligible graduate students who cast ballots voted in favor of representation by the UAW. The Graduate Student Workers Organizing Committee—United Auto Workers (GSWOC-UAW) was subsequently certified as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of USC graduate student workers on February 27, 2023.

Collective Bargaining

What happens next?

Now that the union is certified, the University and the union are required to engage in collective bargaining.  “Collective bargaining” is a process by which a union and an employer negotiate the “terms and conditions of employment”, such as pay and benefits, for all members in the bargaining unit. The union has the exclusive authority to bargain on behalf of all bargaining unit members during this process.

Has collective bargaining begun?

Yes. Representatives from the University and GSWOC-UAW met for the first time on April 11, 2023, and agreed to establish a regular schedule of meetings with the goal of reaching a fair contract.

While both sides have agreed to bargain in good faith, union negotiations can often be long and complex, and the outcomes are uncertain.  Until there is a final ratified contract, the law requires the University to maintain the “status quo” with respect to graduate student terms and conditions of employment. Generally speaking, this means that the University cannot unilaterally change aspects of graduate students’ appointments (including pay and benefits) without prior discussion with the union. 

Who is involved in collective bargainings? 

On the union side, union representatives (typically, paid union employees) work with a bargaining committee that consists of union members elected to that committee and who are empowered to sit at the bargaining table and negotiate on behalf of all members of the bargaining unit. The University’s team consists of a lead negotiator, members of the university administration with oversight of  different areas related to graduate student worker issues, and representatives from the University’s Office of General Counsel.

When will a contract be reached?

We do not know. While both sides have agreed to bargain in good faith and are eager to make progress, contracts can take a considerable amount of time to negotiate depending on the issues at stake and the complexity of the negotiations. At other institutions, agreements have failed to be reached even after years of negotiating.

Union Representation

Content coming soon…Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Fusce sed ornare tellus. Phasellus commodo pellentesque sapien vel facilisis. Donec tempus massa vitae libero lacinia, quis vestibulum nulla sollicitudin. Aliquam commodo enim sapien, in tempor neque tincidunt qu. (280 cha)

Graduate Student Support

What support does the university currently offer to graduate students?

For Academic Year 23-24, the minimum stipend amount is $35,700 for a 9-month, 50% appointment. While no student receives less than the minimum, many receive more depending on school and/or program. All stipends above the minimum are set by the schools themselves in accordance with disciplinary norms and what it takes to remain a competitive program. In addition, every Ph.D. student receives a tuition waiver up to 36 units ($63,468 a year).

Are stipends guaranteed?

The University’s practice has been that every USC Ph.D. student receives a Multi-Year Funding Offer that guarantees their funding for four or five years, depending on their discipline. The offer consists of a mix of fellowship support and TA/RA support that varies by program. The letter also guarantees healthcare benefits, including dental insurance, vision coverage, and mental health services. In addition, the Graduate School offers summer stipends, advanced fellowship support, and, in conjunction with Graduate Student Government, additional support for dependent care.

Do international graduate students receive a Multi-Year Funding Offer?

International graduate students receive the same Multi-Year Funding Offer as their domestic peers. No distinction is made between domestic and international students in terms of stipend amounts, or in terms of tuition, fees, or access to USC resources.

Under President Folt we have also invested more to meet the special needs of international students. This year we have added staff to the Office of International Services (OIS). OIS supports students’ maintaining visa status so they can study and work at USC and post-graduation in the U.S. OIS also answers questions and provides information and support on other concerns international graduate students may face. Other USC programs for international graduate students provide professional development for TAs, writing support for Ph.D. dissertations, and crisis management. USC maintains nine International Offices that can provide support in a student’s home country, including career networking. And USC advocates for legislation that is important to international students through our Washington, D.C., office.

What protections do graduate students have from harassment, discrimination and bullying?

The University works hard to protect the rights and dignity of all students, domestic and international. All forms of harassment, discrimination and bullying are strictly prohibited by USC policy.

Our obligations to meet high ethical and professional standards are set out in the Integrity and Accountability Code, which outlines the university’s core values of integrity, excellence, well-being, open communication, accountability, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. We maintain strict policies that prohibit bullying, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. The USC Office of the Ombuds provides a safe and confidential place where students can share USC-related issues. Several alternative channels are also provided to report complaints, including anonymous complaints, and to receive support. When complaints are made to USC, they are promptly reviewed and investigated as appropriate. The Office for Equity, Equal Opportunity and Title IX investigates protected class complaints, whereas the Office of Professionalism and Ethics investigates other complaints of misconduct.

For Faculty

Discussion Guide [TIPS]

Faculty may find that the topic of union bargaining or representation comes up during the course of your informal conversations with students, or in your labs or seminar discussions. Faculty who oversee graduate students may not interfere with, let alone coerce or restrain, union activities. Out of respect for our students and the collective bargaining process, if the topic comes up, faculty should avoid the following conduct (abbreviated as “TIPS”) to avoid allegations of unlawful conduct.

Do not Threaten adverse consequences based on union activity, membership, or belief.

For example, don’t suggest that existing stipends or benefits will be reduced – that could be viewed as a threat. Also, don’t treat individual graduate students differently based on whether they support or oppose the union.

Do not Interrogate students about union activity, membership, or belief.

Don’t ask students what they think about the union, what other students think, who are the supporters of the union, or any other questions about the union’s internal affairs. If a student volunteers information, you may listen, but do not ask follow-up questions.

Do not Promise favorable consequences based on union activity, membership, or belief.

Don’t promise students any current or future benefit based on their support of otherwise for the union. For example, don’t promise increases in stipends or benefits.

Do not Spy or eavesdrop on union activities.

Don’t go out of your way to observe union activity. This includes creating the impression of spying or surveillance. What can you do? Continue to be accessible, and continue your ordinary engagement with students in research, teaching, and mentoring.