International Students

Can international students join the union?

Yes! International students have the same legal rights to join a union as their domestic peers. By joining the union, the international students can ensure they have better working conditions, access to visa and immigration services and legal protections from mis

What can the graduate student union do for international students?

  • Regular minimum stipend raises. The GEO at University of Michigan won >3% raises in the 2017-2018, 2018-2019, and 2019-2020 academic years.
  • Housing for international students. Grad workers at University of Illinois Chicago won guaranteed summer housing for international students.
  • Prevention of discriminatory fees. Grad workers at U of Washington, U of Michigan, and UM Amherst have repealed or prevented the imposition of specific fees for international students. At U of Michigan, they have negotiated that the university reimburse SEVIS fees.
  • Availability of research funding. Grad workers at Columbia University have negotiated the creation of 15 yearly $3000 summer fellowships for internationals.
  • Equal opportunities protections. Grad workers at U of Washington have defeated an ICE directive to deport international students working abroad, and went to court against pres. Trump’s anti-muslim travel ban.
  • Protections for undocumented workers. Grad workers at U of California have achieved equal access to academic and professional development, including TA positions, for undocumented students and DACA beneficiaries.
  • Transparent grievance procedures. Grad workers at U of Connecticut have established a grievance procedure for international students. They can go through this when they have been unjustly terminated, without fear of deportation.
  • Overwork protections. Grad workers at U of Michigan have negotiated overwork protections, so international students don’t have to violate the terms of their visa.
  • Improved legal resources. U of Michigan grad workers have negotiated the creation of a legal hotline international students can call if they have problems crossing the border.
  • Supplementing International Office services. UM Amherst grad workers have negotiated the creation of a committee to provide support with immigration status, visa issues, and legal issues falling outside the purview of IPO.

How will joining the unionizing process affect my relationship with my advisor?

We will not be bargaining with your adviser, or even with your department directly. The bargaining process takes place on the level of campus as whole. Your advisor will not be involved in the process.  

Additionally, a survey by Gordon Hewitt (a  researcher at Tufts University) found that graduate employee unions tend  to create a positive environment on campus. Hewitt surveyed almost 300  faculty members in the liberal arts and sciences at universities with  recognized graduate employee unions including the University of  Massachusetts, SUNY Buffalo, the University of Florida, the University  of Michigan and the University of Oregon. A faculty member at one of the  universities said, “The graduate student union [on] our campus has had a  positive impact on the working and, in turn, studying and research  lives of our grad students. For our department, the contracts negotiated  to date have helped regularize hiring, working and disciplinary  procedures in positive ways.” Graduate employee unions don’t get in the  way of good relationships between faculty and students because that’s  not what their membership wants. The union’s purpose is to intervene  when abuses occur.

Is it legal for international students to join the union?

Yes! Union activity is protected in New Mexico for all public employees, including international students. In fact, under state labor law, it is illegal to punish union activity. Under The New Mexico Public Employee Bargaining Act:

Participate in and speak out in favor of the unionFire you, discipline you or discriminate against you in any way
Talk with your colleagues about the unionAsk about your support or participation in the union
Distribute union literature, both written and electronicThreaten loss of privileges or benefits as a result of forming a union
Wear union t-shirts, buttons, etcMake promises to employees if they oppose the union
Sign a union cardUse public funds to oppose the union drive

Will my union membership affect my student visa? Can it affect future visas?

No. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cannot ask you questions about your union membership or participation in lawful union activity. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognized the importance of enforcing labor laws and signed an agreement with the Department of Labor (DOL) that states it is essential to ensure proper wages and working conditions for all covered workers regardless of immigration status. It is your right to belong to a union and being a union member cannot and should not affect your visa application

Are there any restrictions on my ability to participate in union activities such as picketing, rallies, and leafleting?

Political activities such as picketing, rallies, leafleting, demonstrations, etc., are forms of expression and free association, which are protected for foreigners in the U.S. (including foreign students with visas) as they are for U.S. nationals. It is against the law for your employer (the university) to retaliate against you for participating in these protected activities.

Are there any restrictions on political activity by foreign students?

All foreign students enjoy the same rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association as U.S. nationals. Federal law protects your right to join a union. The only relevant restriction on political activity by foreign students is that they cannot make financial contributions to political organizations in the United States.