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.
Votes matter. A small number of eligible voter graduate students could determine the margin between “yes” and “no” votes and thus determine whether all graduate students in the defined bargaining unit will be represented by a union.
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.
“Although we must be circumspect in communications with students, I can be brutally blunt with you: I believe it will be a disaster in the long run if unionization occurs — an existential risk to Cornell’s graduate program,” the email read.
A union does not limit STEM stipends, but protects them. A union will not negatively impact students who receive the best stipends. Instead, it protects and guarantees increases to the highest stipends, and also increases the minimum. Currently graduate students have no say in minimum stipends and no guarantee that individual stipends will increase from year to year. Summer appointment letters decreased by up to $780 in engineering departments in 2016 compared with 2015. It is unclear how widespread this cut was within the school of engineering since the administration does not inform us of pay cuts, who they affect, or why they occurred.
The union election will be held on March 27, and is open to all graduate assistants currently employed by the University. Ballots will be counted by the American Arbitration Association, a neutral third party.
The administration espouses the view that the unionization debate should be a free and open exchange of ideas, but uses its powerful platform to undercut the debate, and grads’ expectations that they can make their decisions free of institutional interference.