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.

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Letter to the Editor: On the essential labor of graduate employees

To the Editor:

In the March 3, 2017 Graduate School Announcements email’s “Ask a Dean” feature, there was a featured question asking what would happen if graduate employees decided to strike. In her response to this question, Dean of the Graduate School Barbara Knuth, wrote, “Very few undergraduate courses have a graduate assistant as an instructor of record, so it is unlikely that many, if any, classes would stop due to the absence (on strike) of graduate assistants, but such a situation has not occurred before at Cornell so it is hard to predict what the full set of consequences would be.” I write today as a graduate employee teaching a first-year writing seminar, an active participant in shared governance at Cornell and proud supporter and member of Cornell Graduate Students United to affirm the essential labor of graduate employees belittled and erased by Knuth’s response. Even if we follow the scope of Knuth’s response and only focus on teaching assistants, it must be recognized that the labor provided to Cornell University by graduate employees is absolutely essential to its daily functioning and ability to fulfill its educational mission. Full stop. No qualifiers.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Solidarity with the IC Contingent Faculty

The Ithaca College Contingent Faculty, including full-time and part-time faculty, have authorized labor actions up to and including a strike. The authorization vote came last week, after 18 months of bargaining failed to persuade the Ithaca College administration to commit to the fundamental labor principles of “pay parity” and “equal pay for equal work.” The faculty members facing contingent work conditions, amounting to almost half of the current number of faculty at Ithaca College, held a rally on Monday, Feb 20th at the main entrance of IC campus. The rally preceded two days of scheduled mediation with the College administration and demonstrated the group’s collective power as well as public support for their insistent struggle to secure fair working and living conditions. We, the members of Cornell Graduate Students United and Cornell Organization for Labor Action, stand in solidarity with the Ithaca College Contingent Faculty and unconditionally support all future labor actions undertaken by them. We insist that no worker deserves the precarious, insecure and flexible working and living conditions to which full-time and part-time contingent faculty at Ithaca College are subjected.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Division and Solidarity in the Unionization Discussion

To the Editor:

The socio-political climate recently has been emotionally taxing, taking a toll on our graduate student body. Locally, this has been exacerbated by the vitriolic nature of discussions on the union, with accusations flying on both sides. Some have charged CGSU with harassing tactics. Others are painting neutrality or alternate views about the union as self-interest and apathy towards the welfare of their peers across fields. We are writing as the two graduate student representatives on the General Committee, the administrative, legislative and judicial board of the Graduate School.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Know Your Union

To the Editor:

Unions in workplaces are a much-needed apparatus to ensure equitable work conditions. The power of collective bargaining is indisputably beneficial to workers in establishing fair contracts. Our vote in the impending referendum on the matter of unionizing graduate workers is of grave importance, and we bear the burden of vastly influencing the course of graduate education in Cornell and beyond. Follow not in the footsteps of Brexit, widely recognized as the glorious failure of democracy through uninformed, misinformed voters who leveraged their responsibility to vote through passion and nonchalance, bereft of rationality. This letter aims to understand the effect of unionization particularly through CGSU, as an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and New York State United Teachers.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Justice for Marsha Jean-Charles and for All Grad Workers

To the Editor:

On September 21, at 4 p.m., Marsha Jean-Charles walked out of Caldwell Hall into the afternoon sun, surrounded by friends and greeted by supporters. She’d just finished presenting her case clearly and calmly to her appointed Graduate Grievance Review Board, after nearly four months of navigating Cornell’s grievance process. A hearing with a GGRB, composed of a board chair plus two anonymous faculty members and two anonymous grads, is the fourth and final step of this process. One way or another, Marsha felt ready for a decision — for closure. Six weeks later, Marsha was still in limbo. Incomprehensibly (and as the policy listed on the Graduate School website fails to make clear), a grievant is not entitled to access the recommendation of the GGRB.