March 23, 2017

Letter to the Editor: On union election logistics

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o the Editor

We are writing with voting logistics corrections in response to the article “CGSU Liaisons Face Grad Student Questioning.”  The article stated “If more than 50 percent of the bargaining unit vote in support …” in fact, the outcome of the election will be determined by the majority of those who vote, not a majority of those eligible to vote.

A decision not to vote is a decision with consequences.

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.

In 2002 at Cornell, 88 percent of eligible voter graduate students voted in the election: 580 students voted for unionization and 1,351 voted against unionization.  In the recent unionization election at Harvard, 1,272 students voted for unionization and 1,456 voted against unionization, with 314 contested ballots yet to be resolved.  At Duke this winter, 398 students voted for unionization and 691 voted against unionization, with some 500 challenged ballots, but they will not be counted because the graduate employees withdrew their election petition, so unionization will not occur.  At Columbia, some 1,400 eligible voters did not vote; 1,602 voted for unionization, 623 voted against unionization and 647 ballots were challenged so not counted.

The outcome of the Cornell election will be binding on all Ithaca and Geneva campus Teaching Assistants, Graduate Research Assistants, Research Assistants and Graduate Assistants enrolled in the Graduate School, now and into the future.

This is a decision for graduate students to make.  All eligible voter graduate students have been informed about their voting location for March 27 and 28.

Nearly 2,200 Cornell graduate students are eligible to vote.  We hope all will go to the polls and exercise their right to vote on election day.


Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean, Graduate School

Jan Allen
Associate Dean, Graduate School

Sara Xayarath Hernández
Associate Dean, Graduate School

Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean, Graduate School

Janna Lamey
Assistant Dean, Graduate School