What is bargaining?

The benefit of having a union as GA/TAs is to gain a meaningful degree of control over our wages, benefits and working conditions. We do that through negotiating contracts with our employer. Our contract establishes the rules that govern what graduate workers can and cannot be required to do, how we’re compensated, and how we’re protected at work. Once it’s been signed, SUNY can’t change it without our permission.

Labor contracts like the one between SUNY GA/TAs and our employer, the State of New York, have expiration dates. Our last contract expired this summer on July 1st, and it will remain in effect until the state gets around to bargaining with us over its successor.

coming prepared

GSEU members on our union’s bargaining committee have been hard at work crafting proposals for a new contract based on the old one.

SUNY will want to spend as little as possible on graduate labor, and retain as much unilateral decision-making power over our working conditions, as they possibly can. Graduate workers and SUNY have conflicting interests. Our next contract will improve our working conditions to the degree that we are collectively willing to fight for what we want. Support the bargaining committee's work, encourage all your colleagues to sign their union cards, and participate in direct actions; we can pressure SUNY to bargain in good faith.

the bargaining process

When negotiations begin, GSEU’s bargaining committee will be meeting with representatives of the SUNY system regularly to work out the details of the new contract. We’ll go through article by article, with one side presenting a proposal, the other presenting a counterproposal, and so on, until we either arrive at a compromise or reach an impasse.


GSEU isn’t an activist, advocacy, or charity organization. GSEU is its members: the thousands of SUNY graduate workers who are in our collective bargaining unit who have banded together by becoming members.

This banding together is the key to the power of unions: we can only fight for better working conditions collectively. GSEU members elect Business Agents and Chief Stewards, but no one has power alone. What we win or don’t win in this contract is up to GA/TAs like you taking action.

we will not get everything we ask for

Bargaining means compromise. There’s no guarantee that SUNY will meet us in the middle: the administration only makes concessions at the bargaining table when grad workers can materially demonstrate that we are united, and that we are serious about our demands. That means stepping up to take action together with your colleagues in every way you can.

LABor law and our power at work

In theory, US labor law is supposed to ensure that workers and bosses negotiate fairly and in good faith over pay and working conditions. In practice, employers face few penalties for violating labor law, and the government agencies responsible for enforcing these laws tend to be underfunded, biased in favor of bosses, or both.

new york labor law

The current extension of the old contract past its July 1st expiration is mandated by Section 209a 1e (known as the Triborough Amendment) of the Taylor Law. The Taylor Law, passed in the 1960s, granted New York State public employees like us the right to unionize, but also established harsh penalties for public employees who go on strike. We cannot, under state law, credibly threaten to withhold our labor in the likely event of stalled, drawn out, or bad-faith contract bargaining. But we can at least count on the old contract remaining in effect during bargaining, so that we are never left in the lurch with no contract in place.

suny works because we do

The truth is that SUNY, like all employers, is going to do whatever they can get away with to keep unilateral decision-making power and spend as little money as possible on labor costs. Binghamton University, SUNY, and New York State have enormous financial resources and formal decision-making authority. What we have is strength in numbers, and the simple fact that Binghamton University cannot operate without our work as teachers and researchers.

It’s up to us to fight for what we want; this contract campaign is our chance to do that.

Read our 2019-2023 contract here