Johns Hopkins PhD students to decide whether to unionize later this month

Approximately 3,200 PhD student workers will have the opportunity to vote in a union election on Jan. 30 and 31

PhD student workers at Johns Hopkins University will vote later this month on whether they will be represented by a union for the purposes of collective bargaining, the latest step in unionization efforts spearheaded by a group of students called Teachers and Researchers United, or TRU.

In the fall, TRU organizers announced they had affiliated with a national union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, or UE, and launched a campaign seeking to become the exclusive bargaining representative for PhD student workers at Hopkins.

The next step in the process is an election administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency responsible for administering all aspects of union elections. All student workers in the proposed bargaining unit—approximately 3,200 graduate students enrolled in Hopkins PhD programs—will have the opportunity to vote.

Together with the union, the university has identified a list of voters for the TRU-UE representation election, which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 30 and 31 across three JHU campuses: Homewood, East Baltimore, and SAIS-D.C. JHU has worked cooperatively in recent weeks with both the union and the NLRB to iron out details of the election.

"For our PhD students, the choice of whether to join a union is a personal decision that is entirely up to each eligible voter," Sunil Kumar, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, and Nancy Kass, vice provost for professional and graduate education, wrote in a message to faculty, staff, and students today. "The university will not seek to influence that decision or the outcome of the election. As always, we strongly encourage students who are on the voter list for this election to seek out facts and information and the diverse perspectives that enrich our academic community before making this decision. This is an important moment for our university, and for the democratic processes that we value."

The unionization efforts at Hopkins are part of a growing national trend. Graduate students at Yale and Boston University voted to unionize within the past month and a half, joining successful recent unionization efforts at Columbia, Harvard, Georgetown, and many other universities.