Cornell Graduate Students United organized in support of graduate student Martha Jean-Charles at Caldwell Hall this past September.

Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Cornell Graduate Students United organized in support of graduate student Martha Jean-Charles at Caldwell Hall this past September.

March 6, 2017

Cornell Graduate Students United Announce Intention to File for Union Recognition Election

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In a landmark moment for graduate students, Cornell Grad­uate Students United has an­nounced that they will be notifying Cornell of their intention to file for a union recognition election.

“We are excited to move forward and we have a strong majority of grads behind this movement with over 1,200 signatures on the petition. We are ready to vote yes and win,” said Paul Berry grad, CGSU member.

In presenting a petition to the University with over 1,200 signatures from graduate students in support of CGSU, this petition will trigger the process to initiate voting for graduate student unionization on campus.

“I found out today actually through text that the union is going forward with the election.
This is a very exciting moment,” said Tyler McCann grad, CGSU member. “This has been building up for a long time. A lot of us are feeling this great relief that it’s finally being filed.”

This official announcement to the administration, per the agreement outlined in the contract, gives the University seven days advance notice for CGSU’s filing of the petition.

“We wrote an email to representatives from Cornell’s retained legal counsel, Human Resources and the Graduate School that we were notifying them seven calendar days ahead of our filing per our campaign and election agreement,” said Michaela Brangan grad, CGSU administrative liaison.

The announcement on Monday will allow the election to take place before spring break.

“Our choice is clear: either we can keep things the way they are — where Cornell is the sole decision-maker with regards to our working conditions — or we can vote ‘yes’ to create a fair and democratic graduate union that will give us a seat at the decision-making table,” said CGSU members Danny Rosenberg Daneri and Jaron Kent-Dobias in an announcement on CGSU’s website.

According to the contract between CGSU and the University, in order to trigger the election procedure, the Union must make a showing of valid, signed authorization cards from at least 30 percent of the bargaining unit in the form of a representation petition to the American Arbitration Association.

“We will come to agreement on voting dates, times and balloting places with the University and hold the vote — likely over three days — on campus within 15 business days of when we file,” Brangan said. “We expect the vote will be held just before Spring Break.”

The AAA will then review the representation petition and upon determining that the authorization cards represent at least 30 percent support, will process the petition and call for the election.
Those eligible to vote in the election are graduate students within the bargaining unit — teaching assistants, research assistants, graduate research assistants and graduate assistants.

On Wednesday, CGSU members will march to Day Hall to deliver the petition. Graduate students will be gathering outside of Bailey Hall as a show of solidarity and union support to the administration.

“There is nothing but excitement and well-earned confidence that we will win the recognition we deserve!” Brangan said. “So many people have worked so hard to build our union over the years, and to finally get to this point with so much support from hundreds of grads across every study at Cornell has been incredible.”

  • Graduate Student

    Finally, let’s get this nonsense over with. I’m personally relieved that that constant solicitation will soon end.

    • Grad Worker at Cornell

      Great attitude! See you at the march 🙂

      • Lara

        I agree it seemed to drag on so much and it was tiring to have the same conversation over and over.

  • Logical Grad Student

    One of CGSU’s platform points is to “negotiate for dental coverage” that costs about $280 per year. Minimum (national only) dues to NYSUT/AFT are about $400. Seems logical to me. Left out of the union argument is that many of those with “only” a stipend also have their tuition covered, so their total compensation is much higher. Why should I pay dues to subsidize their higher salary when I receive no stipend?

    • Confused by Logical Grad’s Logic

      The current dental insurance offered to be purchased out of pocket, that as you say costs around $280 per year, offers relatively poor coverage of dental procedures beyond usual checkups. Any other procedure will involve additional out of pocket costs because the deductibles in the plan are high and percent coverage for many procedures is low — heaven forbid you need a root canal or dental crown, which could cost over $1,000 out of pocket. It is reasonable for CGSU to hope to gain grads more than $280 by negotiating for guaranteed dental care with better coverage.

      Many grads whose tuition is covered do not actually take courses after their first and second years, though their tuition must continue to be paid until they graduate. What is that tuition for? Not paying professors for classroom time. In the sciences, it basically represents another way in which Cornell benefits from the federal or state grants that the work of grad researchers helps secure.

      But mostly I’m confused about your final question. If you receive no stipend, you fall outside CGSU’s bargaining unit and will not be paying dues.