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LETTER TO THE EDITOR | On credulity and union politics: A response from a CGSU Officer on letter from Prof. Jacobson, law

To the Editor:

The response from Prof. William Jacobson, law, to a letter to the editor that criticizes David Collum, the Betty R. Miller Professor and Chair of the Chemistry Department, states at its outset that the letter to the editor “appears to be payback” for Prof. Collum’s anti-union views. Prof. Jacobson seems to have based this accusation solely on the fact that the writers are supporters of Cornell Graduate Students United. This union retaliation claim has since been picked up by right-wing media outlets with enthusiasm, and the graduate students are now subjects of online abuse. I write to point out two related issues. One, the claim of “payback” for Prof. Collum’s views on unions is unsubstantiated.

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EDITORIAL: Understanding Unionization

On March 27 and 28, Cornell graduate students will vote on the question of their potential  unionization, the finale to a series of events prompted by an August 2016 NLRB ruling that graduate students can be considered workers with the right to unionize. This is a reversal of a 2004 ruling which stated that graduate students should have a “primarily educational, not economic, relationship with their university.”

The role of graduate students has become highly contentious; students argue they play an indispensable yet under-appreciated role in Cornell’s research initiatives and course curricula. Cornell Graduate Students United supports unionization as a means of increasing the benefits of all graduate students at Cornell through a collective bargaining unit. The potential union will aim to give graduate students a say over issues ranging from health insurance to stipends and wage increases, ultimately to improve students’ living and working conditions. Critics of the union point out potentially flawed voting procedures and the potential union’s ability to fairly represent grad students.

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GUEST ROOM | CGSU’s Constitution is Neither Fair nor Democratic

simple analysis (see table below) reveals that students in the some disciplines get more than twice the representation as compared to students in the Engineering, Physical Sciences and Life Sciences. Given that it is the Negotiation Committee that will sit at the table with Cornell to strike a bargaining agreement, I am very concerned about this discordance between the number of members in a constituent discipline and the representation they receive.