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.

Letter to the Editor: Vote ‘yes’ for fairness, respect and democracy

To the Editor:

As we move toward our union recognition election next week we would like to tell you why we — 5 active members of CGSU — are proudly voting “yes.”  The reason is simply this: CGSU creates a structure to uphold the values most central to our University’s mission for ourselves and future graduate workers. Fairness, respect and democracy. Fairness: Our Grad Union creates structures which will enable us to leverage our collective power to bargain for fair work and labor conditions protected by a legally binding contract. We’re not making unreasonable requests, we’re aiming to negotiate for basic labor protections and commonsense reforms which will enable us to do our jobs better. For instance, basic Cornell health insurance for a spouse and two children costs approximately $8000 annually — well out of reach given the majority of our salaries are less than $30,000 per year.