This section includes information about why unionization is beneficial to you as a graduate student.
Unions have already improved pay and benefits for grad workers at universities around the country. Harvard grad workers won a 2.8% pay increase and nearly a million dollars in aid towards healthcare expenses, child care and emergency assistance. Grad workers at Brown won a year’s funding extension for members whose research was disrupted by COVID. University of Oregon’s grad union won a raise, paid parental leave, and lower healthcare premiums. NYU won a 2.25% raise for stipends, higher minimum hourly wages, dental insurance, and subsidies for health insurance and childcare. In May 2020, 99% of Georgetown grad workers voted in favor of a new contract with average raises of $5000 and dental insurance.
Unions are associated with better mental health for graduate students. One recent study found that 39% of grad students suffer from moderate or severe depression, compared to 6% of the general population; another study found that one in ten report suicidal thoughts. This is not inevitable, but it can’t be fixed by the university’s approach that stresses individualized wellness coaching and stress relief. Better working conditions - and especially a greater say in our working conditions - are essential to ending the grad student mental health crisis. But VGWU also takes individual care seriously: Vanderbilt’s innovative Mental Health Bill of Rights was first drafted and promoted by VGWU in response to administration cuts to counseling services.
A union will improve student-faculty relations by establishing clear workplace expectations, ensuring fair systems to resolve disputes, and ensuring that perpetrators of sexual harassment and other forms of workplace misconduct are held to account. For example, Michigan State University's graduate student union was involved in the firing of a professor who had multiple counts of workplace misconduct but was not previously held accountable by university administration.
Furthermore, by giving us the strength of a collective voice, a union helps level the vast power imbalance between the university and grad students. Clear and transparent contracts spelling out expectations and obligations, a codified grievance process to address mistreatment, and a strong union to hold administrators accountable will benefit us all - especially those most vulnerable to workplace abuse, harassment and coercion, including students of color, international students, and women.
Finally, grad school can be deeply isolating, but joining the union will help you find community, belonging, and new friendships on campus. Through our meetings, events, actions, and social nights, we’re building a genuine community united by our shared desire for a better Vanderbilt. The union brings together people from across disciplines and departments who would never otherwise meet - engineers and philosophers, neuroscientists and theologians, anthropologists and educators - and many of our members have built strong, lasting friendships through their shared time in VGWU. In addition to caring deeply about the solidarity work that we do, we are motivated to remain active in VGWU because it means we get to keep spending time with the great friends we have made.
In addition to promoting a better on-campus life, unions are good for the wider community off-campus. They promote democracy, reduce income inequality, and improve the wellbeing of both union and non-union workers across society.
Without a union contract, our terms of employment are often unclear, subject to change, and determined without meaningful input from grad workers. This doesn’t mean that the administration never gives raises or listens to grad worker demands - but without a union contract, they only do so when they feel like it, not necessarily when we need them to. A union contract provides legally enforceable guarantees that they will listen and work with us.
Consider VGWU’s two COVID-19 petitions, which received more than 900 signatures from grad students. These democratically-produced petitions called on the administration to commit to funding extensions, better mental health care during the pandemic, and to address other critical issues related to the way the pandemic had altered teaching and learning conditions. Both petitions were ignored entirely--despite endorsements from community and campus groups, media attention, and informal raising of similar grievances behind closed doors.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), , the government body that oversees unions and unionization in the United States, defines a Bargaining Unit (BU) as “a group of two or more employees who share a community of interest and may reasonably be grouped together for purposes of collective bargaining.” At this time, we are pursuing a BU that will encompass all graduate degree-seeking (MA, MS, PhD, etc.) employees of Vanderbilt University. Many grads work for the university at different points in their programs. This means that a grad student member of VGWU may flow in and out of the BU--and therefore contract protection--during the course of their graduate career at Vanderbilt.
To attain legal recognition as a labor union, a majority of members of the BU must sign membership cards expressing interest in forming a union. Once we believe that a majority of current grad workers have signed cards, we will appeal to the administration to voluntarily recognize our union. Once recognized, we can submit a formal petition to bargain for our first contract and begin that process.
If the administration refuses to recognize the union, even if more than half of Vanderbilt grad workers indicate they wish to be represented by the union, we will file for an election, which would be conducted under rules set out by the NLRB. For full details, see Advanced Topics in Unionization.
This section includes broad strokes information about unions and concepts related to unionization.
A union is workers joining together to collectively pursue mutually beneficial policies and goals. Unionization is based on the recognition that we share interests, and that we can achieve more when we work together. One grad worker is relatively powerless, but the university cannot function without our collective efforts. A union helps balance the power that employers have over workers, giving us a real voice in our working conditions.
Grad workers are legally classified as workers and your right to join a union is protected by law. As a union member, you have rights that you would not enjoy as an individuall, such as the right to have union representatives present at any potential disciplinary hearings (your Weingarten Rights).
Once VGWU is legally recognized, we are entitled to collectively bargain with our employer, the Vanderbilt administration, over wages and working conditions. These negotiations will take the form of legally enforceable Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA’s), or contracts, that will stipulate the exact terms, compensation, and nature of our working conditions. We will negotiate new contracts that build on the old ones every few years, or what is referred to as the bargaining cycle. By fighting for better contract language each cycle, we will improve working conditions over time for present and future grads that will attend VU.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) defines a bargaining unit as “a group of two or more employees who share a community of interest and may reasonably be grouped together for purposes of collective bargaining.” The exact boundaries of our bargaining unit are to be determined.
Solidarity members - Vanderbilt grad students not employed by the university who choose to join the union in recognition of our many shared interests - will have full rights as VGWU members, but will not be members of the bargaining unit, and will therefore not be covered by an eventual contract. They will benefit from any general improvements grad student conditions won by the union.
VGWU is not currently collecting dues, although we hope to begin voluntary dues in the near future. When we achieve recognition and begin negotiating our first contract, we will make a democratic decision at our General Membership Meetings regarding dues rates. Union dues are necessary to cover the costs of running a union: maintaining a website, printing fliers and pamphlets, food for events, mutual aid funds, and legal counsel. We expect that VGWU will charge dues in the future, at a time and in an amount that will be democratically decided by our members. While paying dues may seem unappealing, unionized workers consistently receive significantly higher wages and better benefits than their non-unionized peers - so consider your dues an investment.
No, joining VGWU is not mandatory, and you will benefit from the positive changes VGWU brings to Vanderbilt regardless of membership. That said, a union is only as strong as its membership. If you want to see positive changes to your own working conditions and to those of your colleagues, then joining VGWU is the best way to make that happen.
Vanderbilt administration and some faculty are firmly anti-union, and you can expect to hear dire warnings about the potential effects of unionization. However personally risky it may feel to go against their wishes, you have the legal right to join a union, and are protected against retaliation if you do so. And the power imbalance between grad students and administrators that makes unionization feel so scary is the very reason we need the collective strength that can only come from a union.
According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal body which oversees unions and unionization in the US, “the National Labor Relations Act forbids employers from interfering with, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of rights relating to organizing, forming, joining or assisting a labor organization for collective bargaining purposes, or from working together to improve terms and conditions of employment, or refraining from any such activity.” These protections apply even before the union is formally recognized.
Under NLRB rules, the following forms of employer conduct are against the law:
1. Threatening employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join or vote for a union or engage in protected concerted activity.
2. Threatening to close the plant if employees select a union to represent them.
3. Questioning employees about their union sympathies or activities in circumstances that tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their right to organize.
4. Promising benefits to employees to discourage their union support.
5. Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they engaged in union or protected concerted activity.
6. Transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they filed unfair labor practice charges or participated in an investigation conducted by NLRB.
While retaliation is rare - and illegal - it can happen. To defend union members in a case of retaliation, the union needs to be able to demonstrate that the employer reasonably knew that the employee in question was affiliated with unionizing efforts or a member of the union. In other words, we have to be able to show that they knew you were a member before we can charge the administration with a case of retaliation. This means that being open about your union membership or involvement in union organizing is actually one of the best ways you can protect yourself from retaliation. Talk to your colleagues openly, post to social media, wear your union t-shirt and union facemask, and post union stickers to your workspace and office door!
This section includes some of the myths you may have heard about unions or unionization practices. We provide information to clarify some common misconceptions.
If you are paid to teach or TA, work as a research assistant, tutor, or are an hourly worker, then you are a worker under US law. Grad workers at public universities won their first union contract in 1970; grad workers at private universities were legally recognized as workers by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in 2016.
While Vanderbilt rejected the NLRB’s ruling in the hopes that the Trump administration would overturn it, this did not occur, and the NLRB recently reaffirmed their decision.
The union was founded by and is entirely comprised of Vanderbilt University graduate students. VGWU does not receive funding from or answer to any outside organization.
Despite our many differences we share important common needs: a living wage; affordable healthcare, including dental insurance; recourse in the event of advisor abuse or harassment; and a meaningful voice when changes are made in our working conditions. The point of the union is to advance these shared aims, and to stand in solidarity with each other when our needs may be different.
You are not required to discuss your views on unionization with your supervisor, and are legally protected from retaliation if they disapprove of your involvement. “Questioning employees about their union sympathies or activities in circumstances that tend to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in the exercise of their rights” to unionize is forbidden under federal law.
Unions exist to represent workers; unionization will not alter your ability to work with your advisor as a student. You will remain free to collaborate, exchange ideas, and receive feedback. A union contract will not change the academic expectations, standards, or workload associated with your responsibilities as a student. In cases where your mentor is also your work supervisor, a union contract will offer protections to prevent abuses of power - for instance, the leveraging of grades, letters of recommendation, or graduation timelines to compel you to tolerate unreasonable or exploitative working conditions.
A union contract doesn’t mean more bureaucracy - it just means a clear set of rules that you helped to write. It doesn’t preclude flexibility or the ability to work out issues with your advisor, PI, or DGS - but it offers solutions when those personal relationships may not be workable, and when administration policies affect us across departments. The union is a democratic organization, and any contract will only be approved with a vote of the members. If you want to be sure your voice is heard, get involved!
There is no evidence at any unionized higher ed institution that this has occurred. In fact, union contracts protect high, living wages or salaries as well as secure good benefits. They do so in several key ways:
1. Establishing minimum pay rates, meaning that even during times of economic hardship or recession, your salary would be guaranteed not to fall below a certain rate.
2. Establishing guaranteed, proportional pay raises (for example, a 1% pay raise the first year and a 2% pay raise the second year of the contract), legally assuring a pay raise on the timeline stipulated by the contract.
3. Protecting benefits often by freezing healthcare, vision, or dental insurance rates or proportions that are paid by the employer for the life of the contract, again legally assuring that these benefits cannot be cut during times of economic recession for the university.
4. These three contract segments--pay floors, pay raises, and legally binding benefit protections-- are almost always active at the same time in a union contract.
VGWU is currently pursuing voluntary recognition. This means that, once a majority of our bargaining unit has joined as members, we will ask the administration to voluntarily recognize the union and enter into good faith negotiations for a fair contract.
In forming a union we are doing no more and no less than demanding that no decision about us be made without us. As workers we have the legal and moral right to unionize and to bargain collectively for better working conditions. Asserting that right is not an attack on the university or anyone else, and it certainly does not preclude positive relationships with faculty and administration.
A union can vote to strike, but it cannot force individual members to participate. Any strike will only take place after a vote by the membership. A strike’s success depends on overwhelming member support, and will therefore only take place when that support is present.
VGWU fights for a lot more than stipend increases. Some examples include contractually guaranteed cost of living adjustments to stipends, improved health insurance (e.g. vision and dental), access to childcare, guaranteed funding beyond the fifth year, clearly spelled out TA/RA requirements, and improved grievance processes to allow for the reporting and remedy of workplace abuse without risk of retaliation.
Even if you are entirely satisfied with your working conditions or are graduating next week, your colleagues will benefit from unionization. The success of our unionization campaign depends on building as large a base as possible. In order for VGWU to improve graduate working conditions for all, including our most vulnerable colleagues, we need to stand together. Solidarity with all Vanderbilt graduate workers regardless of personal working conditions is the biggest reason why some of our members have already joined.
Union workers consistently receive higher pay than their non-unionized colleagues across industries. Grad student unions have won significant stipend increases, raises in hourly wages, and cost-of-living increases at at many of our peer institutions, in addition to valuable benefits such as lower insurance premiums, dental insurance, and paid parental leave. Union dues are a necessary investment to win these benefits.
This section includes information for our large body of international students regarding their rights to participate in student unions.
Yes, you can join VGWU even if you are not a US citizen. Retaliation on the basis of union membership or activism is illegal. It would be a violation of federal law for Vanderbilt or your advisor to discontinue your student status, funding, or visa due to your involvement in the union.
If you lack legal immigration status, you are still legally entitled to join a union. However, you should be aware that under current US law it is near impossible to enforce penalties against employers who illegally retaliate against undocumented workers.
A union would have the legal ability to help with taxes or visa issues affecting your working conditions as an international student. For example, after Columbia University misreported international students’ tax information to the IRS, leading to unexpected bills for hundreds or thousands of dollars, their grad union successfully organized for the university to work with the IRS to correct the mistake in bulk rather than on a case-by-case basis, and even convinced Columbia to offer cash advances to those with financial need resulting from the university’s misreporting.
With visa restrictions often preventing international students from taking off-campus work, the loss of a job can effectively be a deportation order. With a union, the employer cannot unilaterally fire you--you have the right to have a union representative at any meeting where disciplinary proceedings may occur (your Weingarten Rights). Furthermore, a union can fight to reinstate you in the event of an unjust firing. This is exactly what happened at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign early in 2021. Ivor Chen, an international graduate student and grad worker, was unjustly fired, putting both Ivor and his mother at risk of deportation. But Ivor was a member of the Graduate Employees’ Organization Local #6300, the GEO. GEO immediately started a petition for his readmission and re-hiring, began advising him on how to proceed at disciplinary hearings, and fought through both academic and HR grievance processes to have Ivor reinstated. The petition got over 10,000 signatures in one week. And, through this struggle, they won! Ivor was reinstated and was able to stay in the US with his mother.
International students are often excluded from opportunities afforded US citizens. A union can help correct this disparity. At Columbia, international grad students worked with their union to successfully campaign for new summer funding opportunities specifically targeted at non-permanent residents.
This section includes information on complex topics, such as union elections, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and collaborations with external unions.
While we hope that this won’t happen, it is a strong possibility. In 2017, the non-tenure track faculty at Vanderbilt unionized. When a majority of them had signed membership cards or otherwise expressed interest in unionizing, they asked for voluntary recognition. They were rejected. This forced them to hold a Union Election. This is what may happen to VGWU, and it’s important to be prepared for it. See information about union elections below.
Union Elections are a tool at the disposal of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)--the body that governs the legal recognition of unions in the US--that can be used to force employers to recognize unions as the sole representatives of the workers in question. This structure of the NLRB and the union election was specifically designed by the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (more commonly called the Wagner Act) to help workers win unions in cases where their employers refused to bargain with them or only worked with them piecemeal.
Under the Wagner Act, the NLRB can legally order an employer to recognize and bargain with a union over certain “mandatory” subjects of negotiations, like wages, healthcare, and occupational safety. In brief, the results of a Union Election are binding.
To call an NLRB sponsored election, the workers must “demonstrate interest” in a union at the workplace in question. This means that at least 30% of the workforce must sign union cards or other legal documents expressing formal interest in unionization. (Hint: this is the same thing as the membership card that one signs to join VGWU! Click here to sign. The workers that are trying to form a union, sometimes called the Organizing Committee (in VGWU’s case, our Coordinating Committee), collects these interest cards and sends them off to the NLRB with some other paperwork. Digital interest cards have been accepted at the NLRB now for the past few years, so these cards need not be physical.
If the NLRB declares all to be in order, it will then call on the employer in question to negotiate a stipulated election agreement with the organizing committee. As well as legally defining the bargaining unit in question, this agreement will state the terms of the election, especially the date(s), time(s), place(s), and manner of voting (electronic, mail-in, in-person, etc.).
The “voters” in the election, the workers of the bargaining unit, have two options in this election: “Yes, I want the union to represent me,” or “No, I don’t want the union to represent me.” The election is typically decided by a simple majority, so that if more people vote for the union than against, the administration is legally forced to recognize the union. Those members of the bargaining unit who do not vote are not counted towards or against this majority.
During a NLRB election, the organizing committee and the employer may use a variety of tools at their disposal to try and influence the election outcome and sway voters. Employers, for example, can post flyer in the workplace, hold meetings about the election, send mass emails, send text messages, or otherwise communicate openly about the election to try and make sure the “No” vote wins. The union organizing committee, meanwhile, may also try to communicate with voters to convince them to vote “Yes.” Specific rules govern the manner in which union organizing committee members may interact with workers at the workplace during the run-up to an election, and these rules are sometimes spelled out in the stipulated election agreement.
Brief overview. Discuss possible partnerships for GWU
Following the NLRB’s announcement of the results, the employer may file legal challenges. These challenges can be numerous, multi-faceted, and time-consuming. This is what the Vanderbilt administration did when the Non-Tenure Track faculty won their NLRB election back in 2017. They filed legal challenge after legal challenge, appealing when they lost to the higher levels of the NLRB. Eventually, the case was set to come up with the National Labor Relations Board appointees, who are themselves appointed by the President. With a Trump appointed board, it seemed that defeat was looming. Not wanting to set a bad legal precedent that could impact future union organizing, the Non-Tenure Trackers were forced to drop their case.
Under the Biden administration, we expect a pro-labor makeup of the board to be in majority by August of 2021. In other words, while the legal challenges that may be presented by the administration after a NLRB election victory will be difficult and time-consuming, we are confident that this is a legal fight that we will win - although we hope the administration will voluntarily accept the results of a union certification vote.
In union lingo, the way to phrase this question is “will VGWU affiliate with an international union?” Affiliation refers to the process by which VGWU may formally join in with a bigger union organization, or a type of union federation. Examples of these federations or International Unions include the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), United Electrical Workers (UE), or the United Steel Workers (USW). These unions are called International because most of them are exactly that: international federations of unions in countries around the world.
These federations are kind of like unions for unions. Each union pays affiliate dues, a type of membership fee, and in exchange they receive benefits like legal aid, strike fund aid, volunteers, and sometimes even paid staff to assist in organizing efforts on the ground. In addition to these kinds of direct solidarity actions, these international unions lobby Congress, state, and local governments to pass pro-union legislation.
Internationals’ names reflect their histories-- e.g. the United Electrical Workers was originally composed of electricians’ unions -- but as the workers’ movement has grown and changed over the years, many have come to represent more diverse industries. For example, United Steel Workers now represents Pittsburgh museum workers, librarians, and grad workers in addition to steel and chemical workers. Most, but not all, international unions are also members of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, the AFL-CIO. The AFL-CIO serves as a national umbrella for organized labor in the US, and has city, state, regional, and national organizational levels at every state in the country. Nashville is the seat of the Central Labor Council for Davidson County, which reports to the state-wide AFL-CIO of Tennessee, which reports to regional and national organizations of the same.
Internationals are not all created equal, and they vary in organizing approaches, institutional cultures, and overall effectiveness. The question isn’t just whether to affiliate, but also which international might be the best fit.
To strike is to withhold our labor, the very thing that produces so much value for the employer. It is a very powerful tool, but one that we must use cautiously, democratically, and strategically. While they’re very high-profile and attract a lot of news attention, strikes do not occur in a vacuum. In fact, strikes are a last resort for unions, usually deployed in pursuit of a fair contract. Numerous conditions and processes (that sometimes take years) must be completed before a strike can occur.
There are two main kinds of strikes--wildcat strikes (or “illegal” strikes - although this is a misnomer; see below) and “legal” strikes. While unions typically seek to avoid strikes, if we were to go out on one, a legal strike is the kind that VGWU is much more likely to do. There are 2 main scenarios in which legally protected work actions (strikes) occur:
1. The first, common scenario leading to a legal strike is when the employer commits what is known as an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP), a violation of US labor law. ULP’s are defined federally by the NLRB, and include things like anti-union retaliation, NLRB election interference, and refusing to bargain over mandatory subjects of bargaining, like wages. If the union thinks the employer committed a ULP, the union may file ULP charges with the NLRB. The NLRB will conduct a hearing, and, after this hearing, the union may pursue a strike if they deem it necessary (if the hearing gives unsatisfactory results, say). ULP’s can happen at any time before, after, or during contract negotiation. They can also occur before recognition, such as in the case of proven retaliation against workers for their union activity. It’s important here to note that ULP’s not only take time to be filed (there is long, complicated paperwork to fill out), but that it can also sometimes be several months before the NLRB takes up a certain case. Because of this, unions and employers are strategic about when they choose to file ULP charges, and they can even file them to hold over each others’ heads as “bargaining chips,” charges that they can offer to drop during negotiations in exchange for some specific contract clause or provision.
2. The second common condition for a legal strike is related to bargaining contract cycles. If the previous contract has expired during the course of negotiations, a certain amount of time has passed, and the union and employer are still “too far apart” on key issues at the bargaining table, either one can petition the NLRB to send a federal mediator to help negotiate. This mediator has the power to recognize an “impasse” at the bargaining table which may be declared by either side, usually after two or three sessions with the mediator present have transpired without progress. Once an impasse is declared, the union can legally strike for better working conditions. However, the union cannot immediately go on strike. A certain amount of notice--at least 48 hours--are required. In addition, the union membership must authorize a strike or work action though a strike vote. (In VGWU’s case, any possible strike vote would occur at a General Membership Meeting.) A strike vote can occur well in advance of declaration of impasse, something that unions often do--and publicly announce the results--to indicate their willingness to go on strike. Sometimes, just the looming threat of a strike can be enough to push the employer to give up certain items in the bargaining room.
Strikes--wildcat or legal--are democratically organized every step of the way, and can only succeed with a high level of member support and solidarity. This is especially the case when it comes to a strike over contract negotiations. Negotiations can sometimes take years (!), and a strike during contract negotiations is something that, for better or worse, both the workers and the bosses can usually see looming far in advance. There are indeed many steps on the long road to a strike, but we’ll take these steps democratically, together.
Workers engaged in legal strikes over ULP’s or “economic” strikes over contract negotiations are legally protected from employer retaliation. This is what makes it “legal.” In these cases, your right to strike is protected, and the employer cannot fire you or otherwise discipline you because you’re on strike. They also cannot later punish you for being behind on work that you missed while striking. While you won’t be paid while striking (you’re not working while you’re striking, after all!) reinstatement of back pay is common following a successful strike. In addition, unions typically are able to pay a hardship fund or use part of their strike funds to give striking workers direct cash payments to help them recoup the wages they’re missing. If VGWU were to go on strike, we would have a hardship fund of some kind - this is, in part, where our dues will go.
Although sometimes called “illegal” strikes, wildcat strikes are not criminal offenses and are not against the law; you will not be arrested for wildcatting. More accurately, wildcatting can be described as “extralegal,” occurring outside the framework for a legal strike, and therefore lacking the protections that legal strikes enjoy. Workers can be disciplined or even lose their jobs when they wildcat. This kind of strike occurs outside of the conditions above: when workers strike over something that doesn't have to do with a ULP or an economic condition of bargaining. Wildcat strikes also include strikes by those workers who lack union representation, as this strike would also be unprotected.
Unions are typically hesitant to endorse wildcat strikes due to the risk to workers - up to and including firing. While a majority of workers in a union may vote to wildcat, more often those who wildcat are not doing so with the blessing of the union. For example, wiildcat strikers in the University of California system, disappointed in their own union’s official action (or inaction), formed new coalitions and wildcat struck for Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA, or yearly, step raises to account for inflation) in 2020. At UC Davis, this resulted in nearly 70 graduate worker wildcatters being fired by the administration. Thankfully, they were hired back on that fall, but not before a lot of uncertainty.
Unions are also hesitant to endorse wildcatting because most contracts include “no-strike clauses.” A “no-strike clause” does exactly what the term sounds like it does: it commits the union to not striking for the length of a contract (and the employer also commits to not locking employees out). If such a clause is active in a current union contract, a wildcat strike would violate it if organized by the union in any official capacity. The employer could then charge the union with the ULP, risking large fines, or, in extreme cases, union disbandonment. As bargaining approaches, VGWU will have to democratically decide whether we are willing to accept a no-strike clause in a potential contract.