October 24, 2002

2,400 Grads Vote On Unionization

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Approximately 2,400 graduate students went to the polls yesterday at the Straight, Mann Library and the Geneva Experiment Station to vote on whether they should unionize.

If the majority of the students vote in favor of the Cornell Association of Student Employees / United Auto Workers (CASE/UAW), they will create the second graduate student union in the nation at a private university.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), moderators of the vote, opened its doors at 10 a.m. as steady streams of students came throughout the day. During the nine-hour voting period, groups of both CASE/UAW and anti-union members stood near voting areas at different times, wearing pins to emphasize their cause. Although not purposely attempting to sway voters’ decisions, their presence was felt around campus.

“I’ve been encouraging people in my department to go [and vote],” pro-union supporter Trina Meiser grad, said.

Anti-union supporter John Sebastian grad, agreed, saying, “I hope everybody comes out and votes.”

Sebastian said that many students in the same department come out together to vote.

Supporters were also pleased with the amount of students that came out to vote.

Anti-union supporter Joerg Rothenbuehler grad, said that “in general, it looks like there is a high turnout.”

Although results will not be announced until later this week, many supporters from both sides felt confident of their chances.

Pro-union supporter Amy Levine grad, said, “I still think it’s going to be close,” but felt “that we’re still going to win.”

“I think its going to be very close and it will be decided by challenge votes,” Rothenbuehler said. “If I had to bet, I would go with a no [union vote].”

Sebastian said that he does not think that unionization will be passed because many science students, “are not interested in eligibility.”

After the voting period ends at 7 p.m. today, the NLRB will go straight to work in tabulating the ballots.

Students who vote but were not initially eligible, submit challenge votes. A challenge vote is sealed and is only used if the decision difference is too small. If this occurs, the NLRB will re-evaluate the eligibility of each student who submitted a challenge vote and will open their vote if that student’s vote is valid.

The NLRB did not comment on the number of students who have voted or the time when they will announce the results.

Voting will continue today at the Straight’s International Lounge and Mann Library lobby from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The CASE/UAW becomes the sole bargaining agent for all terms and conditions of employment if the pro-union votes gain a majority. The union hopes to improve stipends, health care and grievance procedures if the vote goes their way.

Anti-unionization members’ main concerns include UAW politics and union dues.

Although Meiser is “hopeful,” she claims it will be a “travesty if the union doesn’t go through.”

If the motion passes, it will create the second graduate student union for a private university.

Earlier this year, the UAW started a campaign to unionize graduate students after they won a case at New York University.

WIth another day of voting today, all sides are encouraging eligible students to vote. Meiser said that “everybody should put in their own opinion.”

“We hope as many students as possible go to the polls,” Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations said. “That is what the University would like to see.”

Archived article by Brian Tsao