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Progress Updates

January 27, 2024

Welcome back for Spring 2024! Read GSV's op-ed in the Ames Tribune and share it with friends! It contains first-hand accounts of ISU graduate workers' experiences and the reasons they support the unionization efforts. Find more of GSV in the news on our resources page. We are still collecting signed petitions from graduate workers interested in holding a vote for unionization. Once we have at least 50% (1,065) of graduate workers on board, we will petition the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and hold the actual vote. We currently have over 579 signatures across 70 departments and 55 programs! To sign, print the petition, and drop it off at an upcoming event! You can also send us an email for an e-sign link.

Update 30 October 2023

Currently, 439 graduate workers have signed, from 66 departments and 52 programs!

Update 30 September 2023

[Petition Signatures]
We currently have signatures from 277 graduate workers (up from 194 last week)! If you have yet to sign, or want to get others to sign, print the petition and return to a GSV member who is tabling (Wednesdays 11-1 and Thursdays 1-2 on the grass in front of Parks library)

  • Please make sure anyone who signs also includes a phone number and address (whether it's work or home). We have been getting some petitions with these blank, or "see above"/arrows drawn, and there's a chance they won't count. Only the email address is optional.

[Department/Organization Grad Student Representatives]
Consider signing up to be the point of contact for your department, program, or student organization. The role includes:

  • Sharing GSV info and fielding questions from others in your program/department (or asking them here on their behalf).

  • Collecting petition signatures from others in your program/department. This may be in casual conversation or at official grad worker events.

As you can tell, some of you already fulfill this role. The benefit of signing up on the doc is that we would know who to direct new or intrigued-but-unsure grad workers to. Sometimes it's hard for people who are tabling to know what unique benefits a union would provide for people in a specific program/group. You work within that environment and have insight we just don't have. Please email us if interested!

[Graduate Students Speak Out]
Story #1: A current ISU grad student shares how inadequate insurance forced him to make difficult financial decisions--and he's not the only one... read more here 
If you would like to share your experiences too, please use this form:

[GSV in the News]
A couple of us gave an update at the September GPSS meeting and Sarah was interviewed by Des Moines WHO 13! Feel free to share these new articles with others to spread awareness.

Update 9 September 2023

The first week of Fall 2023 canvassing is complete, with 88 graduate workers officially in support of holding a unionization vote. This is a strong start, so let's keep the momentum going! I'll be sending out emails weekly with updated numbers.

If you have not yet signed the PHYSICAL petition (this is not the same as signing up for the mailing list), please:

  • Find us during tabling Wednesdays 11-1 and Thursdays 1-2 in the free speech zone in front of Parks Library and The Hub.


  • Print the petitions using this link, sign using a black or blue pen, and return.

    • You can bring it to a tabling/live event or give directly to a Steering Committee member.

After you sign, get signatures from others in your department, major, or graduate student organization. 

  • The members of the Steering Committee only have direct connections to a handful of departments. Your information sharing is imperative.

  • Print off some petitions and ask for signatures whenever you find yourself with fellow grad students. You can also print the attached resource sheets or pick some up during tabling (info above).

By the way, in case you missed them, two articles about GSV came out in the Iowa State Daily this week! Our op-ed has some important info about how forming a union would benefit you, and this article is a great overview of where we are now in the process.

Clarifications and things to remember:

  1. Signing the petitions does NOT mean you are joining the union. The language is misleading, but it is a holdover from almost 100 years ago. By signing, you are authorizing UE, and not any other parent union, to be the representative entity when a union forms. UE is also the parent union for COGS, so they will always be the proposed parent union.

  2. Signing the petition does NOT mean you are already voting "yes" to form the union.

  3. Signing the petition DOES mean you are in support of allowing a unionization vote to be held. Once we have 50% support, PERB can initialize the anonymous vote.

    • As of last April, the GPSS (Graduate and Professional Student Senate) publicly supports allowing a unionization vote to happen.

Petitions and Tabling

28 August 2023

It was great seeing some of you at the picnic yesterday! If you were not able to make it, please be sure to read through this email for the latest updates. We are now at the stage where we are collecting signatures on physical petitions from graduate workers interested in holding a union vote. Once we have signatures from at least 30% or 640 (ideally, 50% or ~1,100) graduate workers, we can go on to hold the vote!

To clarify, if you have signed up electronically for the mailing list, you will still need to sign the physical petition. Signing up for the mailing list was a way to show that at least 10% of grad workers have interest in unionizing. Since the interest was shown, we are now able to go on to this physical petition step. Unfortunately, we have not received the go-ahead from the Iowa PERB to allow for an electronic petition.

Here are three ways to participate:

  1. (LOWER TIME COMMITMENT: Please complete this step even if the others do not work for you!)

  • Print out and sign the attached petition sheet. You can return it to 

    • The Free Speech Zone in front of Parks Library (free speech zone). GSV members will be there on Wednesdays 11-1 and Thursdays 1-2 (starting September 6th) 

  • You can also drop by the Free Speech Zone at the above times to sign without printing your own.


  • Print out the attached petition, sign, and get signatures from several other graduate workers before returning the sheet.


  • Help us with tabling in the Free Speech Zone in front of Parks Library!

  • We will provide all of the necessary materials (poster, petitions, business cards, resource sheets) and tabling will ideally be done in pairs, so it is not so daunting. Tabling even once will be a great help.

  • To sign up, or to do pop-up tabling at a time that works for you, please email us.

Start of Fall 2023 Update

22 August 2023

Hope your semester is off to a good start!

Reaching New Grad Students: Word of mouth is the best tool we have, so please be sure to tell 1-3 new students about GSV and our efforts! Get them to sign up for our mailing list, so they can stay updated as well. If you are not sure what to say, see the FAQ or the resources attached to this email.

GSV Picnic: We will be hosting a picnic and info session this upcoming Sunday, August 27th at the Brookside Park Maple Shelter, from 1 to 3pm. All you need to bring is yourself (and maybe a friend!), your questions, and your ideas.

Canvassing and Petitions: Since we are now officially partnered with our parent union (UE), it is time to start our membership drive. We will be passing out physical petitions while canvassing in front of Parks Library (starting Week 3) and at various events throughout the semester. Signing these petitions indicates your interest in holding a vote to form a union, so once we have at least 30% support, we'll be able to hold that vote! Look for more information about this soon. What we need you to do:

  1. Sign the petitions when you see them.

  2. Help out with canvassing! Whether you only have one hour to spare, or can volunteer weekly, all help is greatly appreciated. Reply to this email if you are interested.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

Update 23 July 2023

It has been a while since our last update, but that doesn't mean that the first half of 2023 was uneventful! Graduate Student Voices achieved several important milestones over the past few months, and it couldn't have happened without the effort put in by you and your fellow graduate workers.

In late April, we reached our initial goal of garnering support from 10% of the graduate worker population on holding a vote to unionize. We have now surpassed this goal number, and stand 220 workers (across 32 departments!) strong. Since passing this 10% threshold, we have been able to receive official support from our parent union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). 

The same month, the ISU Graduate and Professional Student Senate (GPSS) voted unanimously to support graduate workers holding a unionization vote. Though the wording of the Resolution indicated a neutral stance on unionization, it also included a pledge to work alongside a union once it forms. GSV and representatives from the Senate have plans to work together more closely in the fall.

Additionally, there have been some internal GSV changes. Former members of the Steering Committee, who started GSV and are still an invaluable resource, have had to switch their focus to graduation preparations. There are several new committee members in place, but this is always going to be a work in progress and we will always benefit from more help. If you would like to get more directly involved with organizing GSV please reach out via email or through our Discord!

As the semester nears, we are continuing to push ahead. Stay tuned for more news of upcoming events, the logistics of the membership drive, and updates regarding the organizing process (see steps below). In the meantime, please continue to spread the word by sharing links to our contact form, website and Instagram with your returning and incoming colleagues. And thank you for your continued support!

Steps to Unionization:

  1. Have 10% of graduate workers in support of holding a unionization vote. DONE

  2. Unlock financial and legal support from our parent union (UE). DONE

  3. With UE’s backing, petition the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to determine the specific number of workers in our bargaining unit.

  4. Begin the membership drive, collecting unionization cards signed by graduate workers interested in forming/joining a union.

  5. Obtain signed cards from 30% (ideally, 50%) of the graduate workers in the bargaining unit.

  6. Petition the PERB again, this time for certification. This will allow us to hold an election for unionization.

Wrapping up 2022 and looking forward to 2023! (Thank you!)

15 December 2022

With the year wrapping up, the Steering Committee wanted to update everyone on how much Graduate Student Voices have grown and where we’ll be heading next in 2023.

First, we had our first group of 10 community builders, supporters, and steering committee members undergo a 6-week international Organizing for Power training offered by the Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation and Jane McAlevey. These members learned about the fundamentals of growing power for the community and people and met unions and other organizing communities there, including other organized units of graduate workers. This winter, another training will be offered from February 8 - March 15th and GSV is gathering people to make this a reality! If interested, please contact us either by email or on one of our social media channels by January 15th.

These members have been instrumental in our big recruiting period that has happened this fall. Graduate Student Voices is now 170 voices strong from 27 different departments and programs. We have quadrupled our numbers from last year with our being public.

Whether you found us by word of mouth, through our canvasing efforts at Parks Library, by reading our op-ed piece in the Iowa State Daily, attending our 70+ person hybrid listening session, or just happening upon us, THANK YOU for being here.

If you’ve been following our updates, GSV will continue to grow with the members' help, particularly with our community builders. Information around graduate worker stipends has been collated, discussions with supporters both within and outside of the university have happened or been planned, and we are still getting the word out there!

Our actions have caused some discussion within the university, as you may have seen from notifications from the Graduate College newsletter over the last month regarding our benefits as graduate workers. That means that our efforts are having a real impact, and with your help, we’ll be addressing specifically how the university can improve our graduate worker experience in the new year. GSV has established a website, secured volunteers to help with maintenance and communications, and the steering committee will bring in new folks to keep the momentum going. Every collective action we take puts us one step closer to officially forming our union, a goal that is finally in sight! 

This all would not have been possible without your support. Thank you for your essential work in higher education, and thank you for continuing to spread the word about GSV. 

Let’s continue moving forward–see you in 2023!

Organize the Lab!

14 December 2022

Science for the People has released a collection of essays entitled Organize the Lab.  Each of the eight chapters in the volume discusses a specific aspect or event related to the movement to unionize graduate student workers.

Update 18 November 2022

Hello Graduate Student Voices,

We're 162 voices and counting, with a number of supporters across the university also signing up to show solidarity!

This week we had a lot of ground to cover, including:

  • Preparing for our Actions Day with Community Builders, this coming Monday, November 21st, 6-7 PM Ames Public Library | Zoom. Folks will sign up to help be a) our point of contacts across programs/departments, b) aid canvassing efforts, c) organize more listening sessions, d) participate in some organizing training, and more projects that help graduate student voices to be heard at Iowa State!

  • Our virtual chat sessions offered twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays through the end of the semester (December 14th is the last day). Anyone unsure about what GSV does? Send them our way to this WebEx link:

  • We have a Community Builder dedicated to GSV's communications - Go M! Below, you'll find the socials for GSV if you want to follow up in other spaces.

  • The Graduate College recently spotlighted information regarding healthcare benefits for graduate workers. GSV is clear about advocating for healthcare-specific to graduate workers' needs aren't necessarily addressed with a student health center as the primary provider. It has also been brought to our attention that faculty are talking about graduate workers and their cost as a budget item, but the reality is that doesn't track to a livable wage for many. If you see more messages from the university trying to neutralize GSV's points, feel free to share!

We are grateful for you all and wish you the best (and rest) this break!

Update 14 November 2022

Hello Graduate Student Voices!

The Steering Committee will be providing updates a bit more frequently, so we wanted to let you all know the key points that were discussed at last week’s committee meeting.  

  • We discussed inviting a speaker as part of the University Lecture series, or as something separate (e.g., working lunch or collaborative space). This will help bring attention to organizing broadly and provide a dedicated time to discuss our goals in a productive space. 

  • As mentioned in a previous email, we will be holding a meeting for Community Builders at the Ames Public Library (and virtually; Zoom link pending) on Monday, November 21 from 6-7 pm. We will be discussing various action items we want to take, but we need your help to accomplish these! If you are a Community Builder, please plan on attending, either in person or virtually, so that we can initiate these items and continue building on our progress this semester. 

  • We will be wrapping up our Steering Committee meetings for the semester in December, and are looking for some new members! There are a few current committee members who will need to step back this spring as they continue their graduate responsibilities, so if you are interested in joining the committee and leading our movement with us, please reach out so we can get you on-boarded. 

Finally, as a reminder, we will have virtual chats with Steering Committee members starting on Monday (11/14). Check out the attached flyer for more information.

Thank you for your continued support! We’re looking forward to what we can accomplish as a group!

October 18th Listening Session

Summary and Next Steps

October 18th's listening and organization session was a major success! There were over 60 graduate workers and supporters present in the hybrid session, which was our biggest meeting yet. It’s obvious that our movement is gaining momentum. Here’s a recap for everyone:

  1. GSV Steering Committee volunteers shared the recent work of the community builders, including the recent op-ed in the ISU Daily and canvassing efforts to spread the word about our mission to organize Iowa State graduate workers and build a community of support.

  2. The anti-union article responding to our op-ed in the Daily was exactly what we expected.

    • Anti-union articles from members of the community (often suggested or encouraged by the employer) are a standard technique in the union-busting toolbox.

    • The University has access to many more resources than we do, including a complete list of graduate student emails, a dedicated legal team, a much larger staff, and significant funding to support an anti-union campaign. 

    • We expect to see further anti-union efforts from the University.

    • We disagree with many of the points made in the anti-union article and are currently working on a multi-pronged response.

  3. The meeting included a long and productive open forum where graduate workers voiced their questions and concerns.  We’ve listed some of the topics and our brief responses here, but see our FAQ for more details.

    • The disparity of graduate student stipends across the university. Is there data? Yes, the information is out there,and we’re in the process of gathering the data.  We will post the analysis results to the website and mail them out to members on our mailing list. Many people shared their stipends during the meeting, and numbers ranged from $18,000 to $27,000 per academic year. Since the meeting, two GSV members have started pulling the information from the State of Iowa website for further analysis.  You can join the GSV Discord to follow the conversation.

    • What kind of grievance procedure is being advocated by GSV?  Would grad students be employed in full-time positions associated with the grievance process?  GSV believes that Iowa State University does not have an effective mechanism for handling grievances by graduate students against faculty members or administrators.  Turnover in the Ombuds position has been very high over the past decade, and the Ombuds office has been closed for extended periods of time.  GSV members’ (and other graduate students') experiences with the Ombuds and University administrators have not led to effective resolution of grievances.  For this reason, GSV advocates for an independent organization to handle grievances, employing staff specifically trained in conflict resolution.

    • What’s the timeline to hold the unionization vote?  We don’t want to hold a vote until we know we can win.  We’re in the process of building support, and that could take another several months or longer. The faster we work together to grow our movement, the sooner we can move forward with establishing the union.

    • What are the healthcare benefits GSV is advocating for?  Health care benefits for graduate workers at Iowa State fall short of what we need in several respects–we are currently working on an analysis that identifies shortfalls and proposes solutions.  The graduate student union at University of Iowa has successfully negotiated for a University contribution to dependent health care.  We are currently required to go through Thielan Student Health Center, whose staff primarily address the health needs of younger undergraduate students, and who sometimes are not equipped to address the needs of graduate students.  

    • If the University decides to work with us without a union, would that be an alternative way to get our needs met?  Possibly, but we are not optimistic that graduate workers can substantially and permanently improve our working conditions without the power of an organized union.

    • Who will be in the bargaining unit?  What about undergrads?  Post-docs?  The exact membership of the bargaining unit will be determined at the time of the union vote.  Because graduate workers occupy a unique place in the University system, our bargaining unit probably would not include undergrads, post-docs, staff, or faculty.  We certainly support the efforts of workers in all positions to unionize.

  4. We ended the meeting with a call to action.  What can you do to support graduate workers?

    • Sign up for our mailing list.  A critical mass of support is needed in order to for us to get resources and help from the national union.

    • Spread the word.  Talk with other graduate students about unionizing, and direct them to our website with our mailing list and resources.

    • Volunteer as a GSV community builder, or a member of the steering committee. Even a little bit of your time can be incredibly helpful in moving us forward.

    • If you are not a graduate worker–if you’re an undergrad, staff member, faculty member, administrator, or community member–check our FAQ for things you can do to help.  We're working on significantly expanding our list of resources for tenure-track faculty and administrators, especially, so check back frequently.

We thank all the graduate workers and supporters who attended the meeting.  If you couldn't make it this time, we'll be posting the date soon for our next meeting.  Remember that we are stronger together! 

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