How Graduate Student Workers at Stony Brook Won the Abolition of Broad-Based Fees

Stony Brook Worker Editorial

May 5, 2022

Stony Brook GSEU Living Wage Campagaign Organizers attending President McInnis’s “Inequality in Higher Education” symposium on October 21, 2021

This editorial piece gives a general overview of what the GSEU is, and it addresses some common misconceptions that we hear from graduate workers.


Firstly, to set the record straight: GSEU is not a club, student organization, or political party! GSEU is a public sector union, which was first founded in 1974 and officially recognized in 1992. GSEU members are part of the Education Division of the Communications Workers of America, Local 1104. As a statewide union, the GSEU represents all teaching and graduate assistants in the SUNY system. Across New York State, different GSEU chapters represent TAs and GAs at the various campuses in the SUNY university centers. In addition to GSEU Stony Brook, the union’s chapters include GSEU Buffalo University, GSEU Binghamton University, GSEU at Albany, and GSEU At Large (representing smaller colleges). Overall, GSEU has over 4,300 members statewide and over 1,100 members here at Stony Brook University alone.

As the labor union that represents graduate student workers, we as GSEU collectively bargain and negotiate the employment contract for all TAs and GAs with New York State. Again, we represent and protect all GAs and TAs, domestic and international, and we make sure that your employer cannot take advantage of you, harass you, overwork you, discriminate against you, or unfairly dismiss you. GSEU is your voice and protection in the workplace.

In addition to engaging in collective contract bargaining and representation, GSEU materially improves the lives of TAs and GAs through a number of other measures. It is because we are unionized that as TAs and GAs we have good benefits such as health insurance, as well as dental and vision. GSEU is  also the reason TAs and GAs enjoy a guaranteed raise of 2% in their salary every year. On top of that, your fellow GSEU members secured thousands of dollars in raises for all TAs and GAs last fall through the Living Wage Campaign, and the fight for raises to grad worker wages will continue going forward.  GSEU is also the reason behind Stony Brook University’s fees scholarship, which every grad student in a terminal degree program now enjoys. This union win eliminated  broad-based fees for TAs and GAs, saving each graduate worker approximately $2,000 every year. Adding together these wage increases and the fees scholarship, the collective efforts of GSEU members have effectively raised the base stipend for TAs and GAs by around $5,000 over the last two years alone. As the labor union for all TAs and GAs, GSEU has secured lots of material benefits for its members already, and we will continue this work to ensure that grad student employees at Stony Brook can lead dignified lives.

But none of these efforts are possible without the active support of graduate workers, for GSEU is nothing more than its members. For the union to continue protecting our existing benefits and make even more gains in the future, TAs and GAs must fill out their union forms, become union members, and add their voices to those of their fellow workers. So, if you enjoy your raises, if you enjoy having health insurance, if you enjoy not having to pay thousands of dollars in fees out of your salary back to the university every year, and if you don’t want to lose any of these benefits, reach out and become a signed GSEU member today. Without GSEU, grad workers would not have these benefits, and they would be at the behest of their employer.