Full Tentative Agreement BC Recommendation

This is the Bargaining Committee’s first official communication since yesterday’s bargaining session. The Bargaining Committee officially recommends this Tentative Agreement (TA), as outlined below, to members.

First, a TL;DR of what’s in our tentative agreement:

  • A guaranteed base stipend of $41,000 starting June 2024, $45,000 starting September 2024 (a 21.8% increase over the current base stipend), and an $1,000 signing bonus immediately upon contract ratification
  • 100% of premiums covered for dental and vision insurance
  • Support for international workers including a fund for visa and legal fees and travel support for those workers and their dependents
  • Robust grievance procedure backing new protections from discrimination, harassment, and abuse of authority

2/21 Bargaining Session Update and Next Steps

On Wednesday, February 21, the Northwestern University Graduate Workers (NUGW) Bargaining Committee (BC) reached a tentative agreement (TA) with the Northwestern administration. We saw significant movement across all remaining issues thanks to the supermajority of strike pledges we reached. We now bring this TA to the membership for the process of ratification, culminating in the ratification vote. Before the vote, the ratification process will include opportunities for membership to discuss with our coworkers whether or not Northwestern’s offer is sufficient for our community.

Your bargaining committee will host an initial series of town halls every day next week as follows:

  • Monday 2/26 (Evanston Campus)
  • Tuesday 2/27 (Evanston Campus)
  • Wednesday 2/28 (Chicago Campus)
  • Thursday, 2/29: Bargaining Committee office hours (Zoom)
  • Friday 3/1: General Membership Meeting (Evanston Campus, Chicago Campus, Zoom)

The ratification vote will be held online from March 11th to March 13th; results will be released on March 18th to allow time for votes to be verified. The ballot will have two questions:

  • Vote YES or NO on whether to ratify the contract or not.
  • If a member chooses to vote NO, they will be provided an opportunity to say why.

In order to vote in the ratification process, graduate workers must be members of the union. If a majority of voting members votes YES, then the contract will go into effect. If a majority of voting members votes NO, the bargaining committee will return to the table with a mandate to demand a better offer from Northwestern. If Northwestern does not meet our demands after that, the next step is to hold a vote to authorize a strike to continue to fight for a great first contract.

Whats in the Contract?

To help navigate the content of the TA, the BC has assembled an article-by-article guide below. This guide details the major provisions of all 33 articles and provides some context about each article’s meaning and effects. The full text of each article is linked alongside its summary. We also highlight some of the main improvements in the table below.

Table 1 includes a summary of the agreements within this contract, paired with the five pillars of NUGW’s platform.

This TA establishes new rights and protections for graduate workers, including: protections in cases of discrimination (including caste and arrest/conviction record), harassment, and abuse of authority (link); requiring a standard of just cause in cases of discipline and discharge (link); enshrining of health and safety standards for workplaces and labs (link); and setting new requirements for an inclusive work environment (link), including access to menstrual products, single user/all-gender restrooms, and lactation spaces. The TA also introduces new measures around work appointments, including establishing a centralized board for appointment postings (link) and requiring the advance provision of an appointment letter outlining job information and duties (link). It provides protections for international employees and requires OISS to provide necessary documentation for international workers in a timely manner (link).


Importantly, the TA grants graduate workers the power to protect these newly-won rights through a grievance procedure, where workers can file grievances when the contract is violated with the full force of our union at their backs and with the support of union stewards (link). It also establishes universal membership via agency shop in order to build union power and strengthen us for future contract fights (link).


The economic package represents substantial wins for graduate workers at Northwestern. It includes a pay raise to $41,000 (+10.9% over current base stipend) as of June 1, 2024 and a further raise to $45,000 (+21.8% over current base stipend) as of September 1, 2024, as well as a further 3% raise in each of the next two years (link). The TA also includes 100% coverage for dental and vision insurance premiums for graduate workers (link). Graduate workers in the bargaining unit at the time of ratification will additionally get a $1,000 one-time ratification bonus (link). Our TA requires the establishment of an international employee support fund ($300,000 for 2024, $270,000 for 2025, and $270,000 for 2026) to offset some visa-related fees and transportation expenses, crucially also covering dependents of international workers (link). Grad workers will also earn a $100/year supplemental payment to cover expenses such as transit or retirement (link). The childcare grant benefit will be expanded to $5,000 for one child, $8,000 for two children, and $12,000 for three children (link). Adoption assistance and senior and adult care benefits offered to staff and faculty are now extended to graduate workers (link). The TA codifies leaves of absence, granting grad workers sick time, paid family and medical leave, bereavement leave, immigration leave, and holidays, among others (link).


Based on these outlined benefits, the NUGW-UE Bargaining Committee recommends this tentative agreement. This TA meets the core demands of membership as communicated through our bargaining survey, wage survey, and the many conversations we and our coworkers have had on walkthroughs, at CAT meetings, and in our offices, labs, and around campus. We do not claim that this TA is perfect, or that it is able to provide everything that everyone hoped for from this contract. However, our wins represent significant and unprecedented improvements in our working conditions and our organizational foundation to secure additional wins in future contracts. This TA includes transformative protections and gains that support marginalized and vulnerable members across our community. We believe this TA secures wins for everyone that are numerous, substantial, and immediate, without extending our contract fight into a drawn-out battle.

What's Next?

Fundamentally, it will be membership that decides whether this TA meets their needs and the needs of their coworkers. As outlined above, a formal ratification process will be held over the coming weeks, with public discussions, town halls, and 1:1 conversations, ending with a membership-wide vote. We encourage members to discuss this tentative agreement broadly and thoroughly, with the intellectual skill and rigor that brought us all to Northwestern.

In solidarity, 

NUGW-UE Local 1122 Bargaining Committee

Full text of each article can be found in the bargaining tracker, and brief summaries are provided below.

Full Text of each article can be read in the bargaining tracker. Brief summaries of each article are provided below.