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NLRB Update: Know Your Rights

Modified: April 5, 2017

Dear Members of the Graduate Student Community,
We are aware that a group of Northwestern graduate students has invited officials and members from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union onto campus in the coming days to host meetings about graduate student unionization. 
I support thoughtful, informed, and balanced discourse on the important topic of graduate student unionization, and encourage you to learn as much as possible about the potential impact of forming a union on your education experience at Northwestern. The University believes that graduate students are students first and foremost, and that direct and collaborative work between you and the faculty and administration, without the interference of a third party, is the most effective way to address graduate student concerns and best position you for academic success.
In the spirit of obtaining critical information, I encourage you to carefully review the information below about “authorization cards,” which you may be asked to sign if you attend these meetings: 

  • Authorization cards are legally binding documents and are not merely informational.  
  • AFT cards typically require you to declare that you authorize the union to be your exclusive representative in collective bargaining. 
  • Signing the card indicates that you agree to be represented by the AFT, whether your signature is in electronic or written form. 
  • The AFT cards we have seen also ask you to provide personal information, including your email address, home address and phone number, and ask you to agree to receive text messages.
  • The AFT can use your card to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold an election if it can show that 30% of the members of an appropriate bargaining unit support union representation.  
  • You may also be asked to sign a “membership card.” This type of card not only authorizes the AFT to represent you, but also makes you a member of the AFT, binding you to their constitution, by-laws, and rules.
  • You do not have to sign a card in order to vote in an election.
  • It is your right under federal law to refuse to sign a union card, and nobody has the right to threaten, harass or pressure you in any way to get you to sign. 
I also encourage you to exercise your due diligence and learn more about unionization:

As always, I welcome productive conversation on the ways in which we cultivate an environment of academic excellence at Northwestern.
With Warm Regards,
Dwight A. McBride, PhD
Associate Provost & Dean of The Graduate School

From the Dean