NLRB decision on fellows

March 14, 2023
Melissa Nobles, Chancellor | Cynthia Barnhart, Provost |

Dear colleagues and students,

As we wrote to you last fall, in September the MIT Graduate Student Union and United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (GSU-UE) filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to add certain graduate student fellows to their current bargaining unit. MIT objected to the petition on the grounds that these graduate students are not employees as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.

We believe that the fellows in the GSU-UE’s petition receive their fellowship funding solely to support their academic pursuits – not in exchange for employment services to MIT.

After holding several days of hearings in November with officials from MIT and the GSU-UE, and reviewing post-hearing briefs from both parties, the regional director of the NLRB issued a decision on Monday. The NLRB’s decision holds that the graduate student fellows in the GSU-UE’s petition are not employees under federal labor law because they are not required to perform services to MIT in exchange for their fellowship funding. Therefore, they are not eligible to be in the GSU-UE’s collective bargaining unit.

You may read the full decision on the NLRB website. We are pleased with this outcome and are especially grateful that the decision avoids what the NLRB called the “grave disadvantage” the union’s position would have had on international students due to the 20-hour employment caps set by federal immigration regulations.

The GSU-UE may choose to appeal the decision. If they move forward with an appeal, we will provide updates about MIT’s response on

Regardless of whether the GSU-UE appeals the decision, MIT remains committed to negotiating in good faith with the union over the terms and conditions of employment for those in the bargaining unit, and we will continue to work hard to enhance student life and learning for all of our graduate students.

As always, you may visit for regular updates on the status of these negotiations. Please direct any questions to


Melissa Nobles

Cynthia Barnhart