FAQ for International Graduate Assistants

Why should I join GAU?

GAU is only as strong as its members.  Bigger unions make better contracts.  In the past, working conditions varied greatly by department and/or GA’s had to rely on the goodwill of individual professors.  With a large membership, GAU can negotiate the best possible working conditions for all GA’s on campus.  We work on issues like wages and salaries, fee and tuition waivers, better healthcare, etc.  We also work on issues that specifically effect international students, like a guarantee of time off for immigration issues, waiver of the SEVIS fee, etc.

Why does it cost $23 per month?

Remember that dues are only paid in months where you receive a paycheck.  We know many International GA’s struggle to balance their budgets.  GA’s with families often live from one income, and International Students do not have the same access to financial aid that US Americans do.  However, the decision to spend precious resources on your GAU membership is a wise decision.  Dues are a way to improve your working conditions, negotiate a pay increase and/or a cut in the rate of increasing student fees.  Universities with strong Graduate Assistant’s unions have seen stipend increases of 5-10%, improvements in health benefits for spouses and children, fee waivers, help with childcare costs, etc.  Dues are calculated to help pay for expert legal assistance during contract negotiations, printing, organizing social events, and to maintain GAU.

Can I join GAU if I am here on a student visa?


Can I join a union without any fear of repercussions?

Absolutely.  The right to form a union is part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).  Graduate employees have formed unions and bargained contracts at more than 25 universities on over 60 campuses in the US.  It is against the law for a university to discriminate or retaliate against you because you are a member of the union or active in the union.  Your membership to GAU is private information.  Although the payroll office will know of you membership, your professors or department chairs will not have access to our membership list.  To the best of our knowledge, in over 30 years of Graduate Assistant unions no International Students have ever faced trouble because of their union activity.  It is common to have International Graduate Students in leadership roles in these unions.  The former President of Graduate Assistants United, Marinus van Kuilenburg, was here studying on an F1 visa.

Even though I can legally join a union, are there any restrictions on my ability to participate in union activities such as picketing, rallies, leafleting, etc.?

Within GAU, you have the same rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association as US Americans.  Political activities such as picketing, rallies, leafleting, demonstrations, sit-ins, etc., are forms of expression and free association, which are protected for International Students in the US who have student visas.

Will my union membership or union activity affect visa applications I might make in the future?

No.  It is against the law for the Immigration and Naturalization Service to ask you questions about your union membership, your legal union activities, or to take them into account in considering your visa application.  It is NOT against the law, however, to ask questions about all organizations to which you belong, including unions.  This is, for example, asked on citizenship applications.  It CANNOT be used against you or taken into account, but it is asked.

I want to get involved, how can I find out more?

Please contact our Vice-President for Membership at gauvpmember@gmail.com.

We look forward to hearing from, and working with you!