Topics Subject to Bargaining and Topics Not Subject to Mandatory Bargaining

Graduate Student Workers Union

If graduate student workers vote to unionize and be represented by the UAW, the union would become the exclusive bargaining agent on all matters involving wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment, and it would be illegal for WPI to deal with the GSG or any another graduate student group on any matters affecting such wages, hours or working conditions for bargaining unit members.  Such issues would have to be bargained by the union.

Not all topics, however, are subject to mandatory negotiations under the National Labor Relations Act.

The law does require bargaining over “wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment,” which include, among other topics:

  • Compensation and benefits
  • Hours of work
  • Work duties and assignments
  • Employment discipline and discharge
  • Grievance procedures

But many topics of potential interest to graduate students are not mandatory subjects of bargaining; if one side or the other does not wish to discuss such a topic, there is no legal obligation to do so. Examples of subjects that would likely be considered “non-mandatory” include:

  • University strategic goals, such as diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts 
  • Hiring processes
  • Academic issues such as academic performance and degree progress, curriculum components, or course and degree requirements. 
  • Student housing*
  • Bargaining unit definition

* The NLRB generally does not consider employer housing to be a mandatory subject of bargaining if the employee is not forced to live in the provided housing. Graduate students may elect to use WPI housing because of their status as students, not because of their status as employees. They are not required to stay in university housing.

Finally, some subjects cannot be bargained, such as proposing language for the contract that directly contradicts federal or state law or regulations.