About Us

We are a collective of graduate assistant (GA) employees—including PhD and MS/MA teaching, research, and administrative assistants—organizing for a more just, democratic, and safe workplace and community at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park (Piscataway land), as well as all campuses in the University System of Maryland (USM). We’re fighting for a unionized university that serves the public.

Spencer Lewis

PhD candidate, Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics 

My research aims to identify the regulatory mechanisms that allow the pathogen Streptococcus pyogenes to overcome excess heme stress during invasive infections. I support forming a union because I am tired of workers across America getting screwed over. With regards to UMD, the work and research conducted by graduate students significantly contributes to the merit the university holds, yet we see little compensation. When we question this, we are told, “That’s the reality of graduate school, just tough it out.” WRONG! The university doesn’t want to pay us fairly. If we want to ensure all graduate students are fairly compensated for their labor and protected from abusive working conditions, we must form a union. 

Anjali Verma

PhD Candidate, Biophysics

I’m Anjali, an upcoming second year PhD student in the Biophysics program. I work on machine learning methods to predict RNA structure and the dynamics of small peptides. I’m joining the union because I want higher wages and improved benefits for international students and I think that a union is the most effective way to win those things!

Akshaya Ganesh

PhD Candidate, Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics

I’m Akshaya, an upcoming fourth year Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics PhD candidate. My research studies inflammation and innate immune signalling in Mycobacterium tuberculosis infected macrophages. I want to form a union to be able to advocate for student rights, and increase in quality of life, in an actionable and meaningful way.

Erin Green

PhD Candidate, English

I study composition theory, writing program administration, community writing, and abolitionist teaching. At UMD I have taught academic writing, technical writing, and social media rhetoric. All of these courses count for multiple general education requirements for every single undergraduate degree on this campus. Without my labor, and the labor of other graduate students, this university would crumble. One of the values UMD lists on its website is equity & social justice. If y’all value an equitable workplace and believe we should not endure suffering low and unlivable wages, then run me and my people our check, UMD! And if you’re a grad and value equity and social justice, join our union.

Joseph Knisely

PhD student, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

My research primarily focuses on numerical weather prediction and data assimilation. I believe that as invaluable and irreplaceable workers within the university system, we deserve a voice in our salary and benefits negotiations. Furthermore, I believe students deserve support and solidarity, especially when they’re being abused and exploited by their advisor or the university. Graduate student organizing campaigns at other universities across the country have succeeded in their efforts and produced tangible quality of life improvements. I believe it’s time for UMD graduate students to do the same.

Yu-Chi Hou

Graduate Worker, Mathematics (Geometry)

A union would bolster the financial resilience of graduate students and offer a platform to address our working conditions and policy concerns. Instead of relying on the administration’s favor, collective bargaining enables us to proactively advocate for our rights. As UMD’s backbone, our collective voice needs to be heard, and we deserve a seat at the table. This is possible only when we unite. 

Andrea Gutmann Fuentes

DMaster’s Research Assistant, History and Library Science

My history research looks at the relationships between organized labor movements in the U.S. and Chile in the 1960s and 1970s, and how these relationships were structured by systems of capitalism and empire. I am fighting for a union for UMD graduate students because without our labor, the university would cease to function. We deserve a union that can improve our working conditions and provide fair compensation for the work that we do for this university. A better quality of life for graduate student workers will not only benefit graduate students— it will also benefit our students, our research, and our entire university community.

Anthony Garove

Doctoral Research Assistant, Survey and Data Science

Organized graduate workers don’t have to accept unfair compensation or poor working conditions. A union would give us the power to improve the working conditions and well-being of ALL graduate workers—and, in turn, improve the quality of vital work that graduate students do to make our institution run. Better pay and working conditions for graduate workers will serve to make a graduate education more accessible to and obtainable for folks from diverse backgrounds and different walks of life. Unionizing graduate workers at UMD is an obvious and critical action to take.

Isabel Shaheen

Public Policy

All workers should have the right to negotiate a fair contract. 

JP Fetherston

Doctoral Teaching Assistant, Dept of History, Early Americanist

I support the formation of a graduate students union at Maryland for all of the immediate and pressing concerns of, among many others, securing collective bargaining and liveable wages, but I am particularly driven by the broader principles at stake in this struggle: to demand and receive recognition of our essential labor for what it is, and to always keep working towards a more democratic workplace.

Carolyn Robbins

Doctoral Research Assistant, Communication department on the Rhetoric and Political Culture track

I study abolitionist rhetorics and prison riots, so I am no stranger to the level of disruption required to change systems of oppression. I also teach Argumentation & Public Policy, which further demonstrates the history of resistance necessary for gaining and maintaining civil rights in the United States. I love what I do, and I want to continue providing high-quality research and education to this university, but I can’t do that when my needs aren’t met and my labor is exploited. That’s why I want a union. I deserve a living wage, collective bargaining rights, grievance procedures, and protections on my time and labor – and so do you! I also strongly believe that our international student colleagues deserve protections, living wages, and the elimination of arbitrary fees. I can’t do this alone though – join the union and be part of changing our working conditions for the better!

Alvin Cheung

graduate research assistant in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

I am currently applying machine learning techniques to study how and when tropical cyclones form. I support forming a graduate student union because a union would allow students to bargain collectively for a livable wage in the DMV area, notoriously known for high living costs. The daily operations of the university, including research and academics are reliant on the work of graduate students. A union would provide accountability in determining a livable and competitive wage for the university’s critical employees.

Collin Vincent

PhD Student, Chemistry and Biochemistry program

I think forming a union is one of the most important actions a worker can take to fight exploitation, and to ensure fairness in employment. As a chemistry student earning an advanced degree, I am expected to put in 50-60 hours a week, yet am only paid for 20 hours a week. The university depends on us graduate students to run a significant portion of classes, discussion sections, and labs, yet we are not treated as the vital employees that we are. The only way to ensure we are fairly compensated is by coming together to protect each other, and utilize strikes and collective bargaining to force the university to treat us better.

ElL Bogat

3rd year PhD student in the Department of Astronomy

I work on discovering new giant exoplanets to determine how planetary systems form. I am passionate about collective action as a form of community in an otherwise competitive and isolating field. A union would allow graduate students from all departments to support each other, protect each other, and empower each other as we complete our academic studies and begin our careers.

Daniel Smolyak

Doctoral Research Assistant, Computer Science Department

I study ethics and fairness in the use of machine learning for health. Without a UMD grad union, the university is free to continue ignoring our needs. Whether it’s below cost-of-living stipend levels, lack of enforceable assistantship contracts, or inadequate grievance policies for holding accountable abusive supervisors, it is clear that the university administration is failing its grads. It’s time we use our collective voice and power to enact positive change for grads and UMD.

Akanksha Singh

5th year PhD student, Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences

International graduate students are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by employers due to the unique challenges we face. Fear and anxiety surrounding our visa status can prevent us from advocating for ourselves, but we deserve better. Under US law, graduate students doing teaching or research work are employees regardless of citizenship status. This means we have the legal right to organise and bargain with the University as equals, without retaliation. Together, we should collectively bargain for improvements and protections, and support each other in times of uncertainty.

Emilio Weber

Masters Student, Kinesiology

I support forming a union because together we are stronger! I want us to have the power to collectively stand up for our rights as workers to fight and win increases in pay, clearer contracts and policies which maintain our dignity.

Sam DiBella

PhD student, information studies

I study the social harms of surveillance technologies, which make data exploitation a requirement for participating in society. UMD needs a grad union, because the university’s shared governance is irreparably broken. UMD would fall apart without grad workers, but management refuses to acknowledge that basic fact—in fact, they lie to themselves, us, and the public about working conditions here. We deserve a say in our workplace, like all workers.

Jan-Michael Archer

Doctoral Administrative Assistant, Environmental Health

My public health research seeks environmental justice for Black communities suffering from toxic air pollution. But, I’m fighting toxic working environments in higher education, too. Without a union, graduate workers are all but powerless when it comes to harassment and bullying from our supervisors. Grads who are non-US citizens and women or femmes get worse treatment than their male, US citizen peers. I can’t fight inequity off-campus while ignoring it here at UMD.

Julia Hemphill

Master’s Teaching Assistant, History Department

My research focuses on nineteenth century women’s and gender history. I support a union because graduate workers and assistants deserve fair compensation for the work they do that keeps the university running.

Michael Rozowski

5th year PhD candidate, Applied Mathematics

I research partial differential equations and free boundary problems arising as models in cell biology using tools from the calculus of variations, optimal transport, and geometric measure theory. I also assist with teaching introductory courses in calculus, differential equations, and probability to essentially all majors here at the University of Maryland. Higher education workers at public universities in Maryland deserve collective bargaining rights in order to legally ensure their own wellbeing. Graduate student workers in particular are the primary workforce of the teaching and research operations at the University of Maryland, and as a result we are primarily the group that delivers on the promises made by the University to its stakeholders. Because we’re fundamental to the university’s function, we ought to be at the table during the process for deciding our pay, benefits, and working conditions.

Laura DeMarco

Master’s Administrative Assistant, Library and Information Science

My research focus is on museum scholarship and material culture. I support unionization because unions are a force for parity and equity in the workplace. Without unions, workers are continually underpaid, overworked, and exposed to harassment and discrimination without necessary support. The dangers only grow worse for people who already face stigma and systemic discrimination in their daily lives:

  • Disabled people for whom a living wage is much higher due to medical costs
  • Women who earn less pay than men for the same job
  • People of color who are denied the promotions they earned because it wouldn’t be “fair” to their white colleagues
  • Queer people who do not feel safe being out at work
  • Men who face gendered harm and aren’t believed afterward
  • International and ESL workers who work tirelessly to overcome language and cultural barriers, only to be blamed and ridiculed when they make mistakes

And those are just a few examples. Any workplace can say they value their employees, but actions are another thing entirely. And when employers break the promises of inclusion and respect, it’s up to the workers to demand the pact stay intact.

Nate Beard

Graduate Worker, College of Information Studies

I research the social and political impacts of internet and algorithmic technologies in the College of Information Studies, and I teach undergraduate classes on ethical and policy aspects of science and technology in the engineering school. Grads make UMD work on a daily basis, and help fulfill the university’s mission to serve the public and benefit society by producing innovative research and providing excellent learning experiences for students. But we can’t do this to the best of our ability when we lack living wages, secure jobs, adequate benefits, and protections against harassment and abuse. This is why I support forming a union: we deserve dignity, living wages, and a democratic voice in our working conditions in order to create inclusive and supportive lab and classroom environments.

Norma Peña-Flores

PhD student, Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program

My research centers on identifying biological predictors of loneliness, a growing social epidemic that increases the risk for disease and mortality among those affected. The virulence of loneliness has been aggravated by the erosion of institutions that used to provide spaces for robust social connections to form. Labor unions are one of those institutions. At UMD, lacking a graduate labor union is putting the mental and physical wellbeing of graduate workers at risk. Graduate student workers -regardless of citizenship status- should have the right to be part of a union that protects them from exploitation, undignified living conditions and provides a safe space for solidarity and community to develop. UMD needs to step up and meet the rights of its graduate workers to form a union if it wants to reap the benefits of a successful and healthy graduate workforce.

Jermain McDermott

6th year PhD Candidate, Mathematics

I study arithmetic dynamical systems to better understand prime divisors of sequences over general number fields. I’m also a Graduate Teaching Assistant in the math department here, and have taught courses ranging from Precalculus all the way to Linear Algebra. As an essential arm of the university, we need to exercise our right to unionize. Self-determination is one of the USA’s founding principles, with collective bargaining resting squarely on this fact. With great deference to the successes of the Labor movement as a whole, I strongly support the effort towards the creation of a union of researchers.

Ramsey Karim

Doctoral Research Assistant, ASTRONOMY

I strongly and enthusiastically support forming a union of graduate workers at UMD because we need reliable representation working in our best interests, not the interests of the university or our superiors. Every employee deserves this.

Rigby Philips

Master’s Administrative Assistant, history and library science

I study the history of women and religion in the seventeenth-century Atlantic and how to preserve, organize and disseminate information. I wholeheartedly support a graduate union, because history shows us that organized labor is one of our best tools for achieving groundbreaking social and economic change. Grads work as teachers, librarians, researchers, and so much more, but our labor is too often undervalued by those in power who do not directly witness what we do. UMD grad workers need collective bargaining rights, and we deserve a union that we can count on for support, safety, and solidarity.

Ryan Synk

Graduate Worker, Computer Science

Too often, graduate students are misled into suffering the abuses of a toxic workplace environment under the guise that “graduate school is difficult.” As individuals, we are powerless against the faculty that overworks us and the administration which repeatedly denies our dignity by refusing to give us a living wage. Together, as a union, we can collectively get the rights we deserve.

Alexander M. Dunphy

PhD student, History

My goal for pursuing a PhD in history was to explore the countless courageous efforts of everyday people banding together to fight for justice, security, and dignity. In the years since I began my studies, I have not only studied these struggles, but had the privilege to be part of such an effort. Graduate workers are overworked, underpaid, and precarious. We lack medical or family leave, we are vulnerable due to our immigration status, we have no assistance for child care, we are at the whims of abusive supervisors, and we face racial, gender, and sexual discrimination. Graduate workers face a massive power imbalance when dealing with their employers and we lack any meaningful legal protections or means of redress. The only solution to the problems graduate workers face is for us to band together and act collectively. That is why we need a union; that is why we are fighting for a union; and that is why we will win a union.

Brinda Yarlagadda

PhD Student, School of Public Policy

I support forming a union to have a place to collectively organize and negotiate for better working conditions for all graduate students at the University of Maryland.

Brandon Kolstoe

Doctoral Research Assistant, Math 

I am a graduate student in the math department studying pure and applied harmonic analysis. Through my experiences, I know that graduate students are absolutely essential for both teaching and research, the primary goals of the University of Maryland. However, this importance is not matched by our compensation, which is quite low relative to comparable institutions. A union will help us to fight collectively for higher wages to honor the time and effort we are committing to educating students and expanding the collective knowledge of our fields.

Bryson Clifford

PhD candidate, Materials Science & Engineering 

Your experience as a graduate student at UMD can vary drastically. I’ve seen competent, intelligent people burn out and lose hope in academia due to unequitable pressures. International students are treated more harshly than domestic students because there is an unspoken but implied threat that their visa can be revoked, graduate students in general are not paid a livable nor competitive wage but are expected to work overtime past 40 hours per week, no subsidized graduate housing is offered, the university places strong emphasis on entrepreneurial start-ups by professors who in turn guide their students’ research in the start-up’s favor, ETC. Without formal regulation we are left at the mercy of our department and ultimately our advisor. This is why I support a graduate union at UMD. We should all be treated fairly and as human beings or the university doesn’t deserve us at all. 

Henry Hausmann

Graduate worker, Atmospheric and Oceanic Science

I’m a graduate student in atmospheric and oceanic science, working on ecological based solutions to sea level rise. I want a union here at UMD because I believe in democracy in the work place. If you have no say in who governs you, that’s considered tyranny. Why should your workplace be any different? I simply want a voice in decisions that impact my life and my work.

Kasey Vangelov

PhD Student, Public Policy

I support forming a union among graduate students so that we have collective bargaining rights. College Park is in the top 4% of most expensive cities in the world. As the cost of living in College Park increases and fewer affordable housing options are available, it is important to address grad workers’ low wages.

Keith Mills

6th year PhD Candidate, Mathematics

I research high-dimensional geometric topology, which means that I use a large suite of algebraic and geometric techniques to understand shapes of dimensions five and higher. For the mathematics department I assist in teaching introductory calculus, differential equations, and linear algebra courses, and occasionally I serve as the primary instructor for mathematics department courses. As graduate workers for the university we perform many essential tasks and serve critical functions for educating undergraduates at UMD, yet have nearly no power to improve our working conditions. UMD graduate workers deserve collective bargaining rights in order to ensure we are treated fairly by the university and its administration.

Maeve Wildes

Doctoral Teaching Assistant, AMSC- Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computation

I am a Ph.D. student in the AMSC program studying partial differential equations. A union will provide us with the ability to advocate for ourselves, leading to a safer and more supportive working environment. A union would be the best way to ensure that graduate workers in all departments feel that they are receiving fair compensation and treatment.

Max Auer

Graduate Worker

I believe a union and collective bargaining rights are essential to securing fair working conditions to all graduate students, and ensuring we are all treated equally. Therefore I support any effort towards unionizing!

Sergio A. García Mejía

Graduate Worker, ENCE, Disaster Resilience

I am an international student. Student unionization is essential to help protect international students who are more vulnerable due to a lack of support networks and cultural knowledge of how universities in the U.S. work and how to navigate through them.

Shashank Sule

Graduate Worker, Applied Mathematics

Graduate workers contribute to a significant proportion of UMD’s output as a university, but have little power in deciding their wages, hours, working conditions, health benefits, and much more. It is time to change that.

Andrew Goffin

Doctoral Research Assistant, Electrical and Computer Engineering

Graduate workers are essential to the university ecosystem, and by teaching courses, conducting research, running administrative tasks, and performing many other functions they provide untold value to the university. I’m for a union because graduate workers deserve a say in how their workplace runs, and collective power is the best way to ensure suitable pay, benefits, and conditions for grads at UMD.

Victoria Whitley

5th Year Phd Student, AMSC Program

My research is in computational fluid dynamics and physical oceanography, and I teach math courses such as calculus or algebra to UMD undergraduates. The hours, work load, and compensation in these positions are extremely variable and entirely dependent on the course chair, research PI, or department. We are often called assistants, yet can carry the workload and responsibilities of a full time lecturer, without the same benefits or pay. Having collective bargaining rights would allow us to advocate for better working conditions and benefits, creating fair and transparent policies for all workers.

Vasanth Pidaparthy

Doctoral Teaching Assistant, Department of Mathematics, Differential Geometry

I stand alongside my fellow graduate workers in shared pursuit of a better University of Maryland. Together, we can achieve higher wages, improved benefits, and fairer treatment. Our collective efforts are the driving force behind the positive change we envision.

Lilah Drafts-Johnson

Master’s Research Assistant, Kinesiology/Physical Cultural Studies dept

I want a union because issues that grad workers face like low pay and lack of workplace protections aren’t just labor issues, they’re gender equity issues. Academia already has steep power dynamics between graduate students just starting out and professors well-established in their careers. My research at UMD focuses on preventing gender-based violence—things like sexual harassment and misconduct—in sport communities. As an advocate, I know that it’s very dangerous to mix financial and job insecurity into a context where power differentials are already at play. That’s how people get trapped in situations they aren’t sure how to navigate and are unable to access the resources they need to get help. A union will help grad workers to level the playing field and have a voice in our workplace.

Arpith Shanbhag

PhD student/teaching assistant in the math department

As teaching assistants, we play an indispensable role. The department relies on us to run its coursework and we have the right to demand a fair compensation which keeps up with the increase in prices. With a union we can take collective action against issues that impact all of us and make our demands heard. United we stand!

Jordyn Taylor

Master of Public Policy, Gradute Worker in the UMD Fellows Program

Creating a graduate labor union is vital as it fosters inclusion by providing a platform for all graduate students to voice their concerns. This collective strength not only advocates for improved working conditions but also promotes a more inclusive and equitable academic environment.

Amandeep Chanda

4th year PhD candidate, Mathematical Statistics Program

All those who work in higher education at public universities in Maryland deserve collective bargaining rights to ensure their own wellbeing. Graduate Students are responsible for shouldering a vast majority of the teaching and research burden here at the University of Maryland, thereby making us the workforce which upholds the promises made by the University. Consequently, we deserve a seat at the table where decisions regarding our wages, benefits, and working conditions are made.

Nora E Jameson

PhD Student, EPIB

All workers deserve a living wage and fair bargaining rights to thrive and benefit their workplaces. As a worker in the School of Public Health it is no mystery to me that unions support public health and healthier communities. I plan to represent my Graduate Student Government and School of Public Health to bring about healthier, fairer worker conditions for our great University of Maryland community and school systems.

Max Springer

Doctoral Research Assistant, Mathematics

My research focuses on designing approximation algorithms for game theoretic, machine learning, and combinatorial optimization problems. Additionally, I have worked as a teaching assistant in both the mathematics and computer science departments. Graduate workers constitute the backbone of the university’s educational and research endeavors. However, despite our integral role, we often find ourselves without a platform to voice our concerns and improve our working conditions. As such, it is imperative that we champion the cause of collective bargaining rights, ensuring equitable treatment from both the university and its administration.

M Pease

Doctoral Teaching Assistant, Doctoral Fellow, Counseling Psychology

We deserve the agency to shape our working conditions and create an institution that truly takes care of its community. Our union can help us build the power and resources necessary to give everyone the opportunity to truly thrive at UMD.

Max Anthenelli

Research Assistant, PhD Student – Education Policy, Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership

Many people have accepted the narrative that grad school sucks, and that’s just the way things are. That’s bullshit. We deserve to be recognized and compensated as the skilled researchers we are; we should support each other to change this narrative.

Ivy Lyons

Graduate Worker, PhD student, Journalism

A lot of my peers in the graduate program are international students. I know a union would help ensure equitable resources and provide better working conditions than they currently experience. I also deeply believe a union would provide all graduate workers with the compensation they are rightfully owed for lab and teaching work!!

Aryn G. Neurock Schriner

Graduate Worker, PhD student, Anthropology Department

My dissertation focuses on contemporary labor movements in DC museums. I can’t understate how excited I am to join my fellow graduate workers in solidarity. Unions are a powerful tool in combating deeply-entrenched systemic injustice, and I am unequivocally proud to be a part of this movement that UMD graduate workers have fought hard for.

İsmail Coşandal

Graduate Teaching Assistant, PhD Student, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering 

UMD grad workers deserve a union because we should control means of production. We have means of production. We are means of production.

Rose Ying

Graduate Worker, PhD Student, Neuroscience and Cognitive Science 

Without graduate workers, none of UMD’s “fearless” ideas and innovations would exist. We are the ones conducting the research that moves the university forwards and we should be compensated for our contributions.