U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a statement to Cornell graduate workers just days before the unionization recognition election.

Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a statement to Cornell graduate workers just days before the unionization recognition election.

March 25, 2017

New York Senator Announces Support For Cornell Grad Workers

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As graduate students prepare to head to the polls, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a statement to Cornell graduate workers pronouncing his support for unionization.

Pointing to Cornell as a “valuable economic driver” both in the state and the nation, Schumer noted that the University has accomplished this status “fueled by the tireless and ongoing efforts of RAs and TAs.”

Although Schumer did not specifically tell graduates how he thought they should vote this week, he proclaimed his support the National Labor Relations Board’s decision in August — a decision that allowed graduate workers to unionize — saying that “it is a decision [he] strongly supported because [he] believe[s] in the right of employees to organize and to collectively bargain for fair contracts,” the statement read.

Along with his support for the NLRB ruling, Schumer added his belief on the value of unionization and the American labor movement, which he said has been “a springboard for advancement, economic equity and fair representation in the workplace.”

“It has been my experience that workplaces function most effectively when there is a proper balance between workers and management,” Schumer said in the statement. “Most importantly, unions build the middle class by affording hardworking people fair wages, decent benefits and a say over their work lives.”

Paul Berry, grad, spoke on behalf of CGSU, saying that they are “honored” to receive this statement from Schumer, someone who he said “has recently taken such a strong stand against abuses of executive power.”

“We are proud that he is willing to stand up with our rights as workers here at Cornell Graduate Students United, even though the Cornell administration opposes those rights,” Berry said.

Schumer additionally spoke from his perspective as senator having worked with the American Federation of Teachers — the national union with which CGSU has affiliated.

“I have worked for many years with the American Federation of Teachers and can say that they are a first-rate institution that knows how to advocate for its members and build positive, win-win relationships with employers, especially in academic settings,” the statement read.

Schumer highlighted the importance of the free and fair process in the election and subsequent negotiations, should graduate students vote in favor of unionization.

“The healthy functioning of the university community is best secured by ensuring a free and fair election on unionization and, should the majority elect union representation, a prompt engagement in good-faith negotiations for a contract,” the statement said.

This statement from Schumer as well as a recent endorsement from Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 have been especially significant for Berry considering their earlier campaigning in 2014.

“We started as a grassroots organization and I think the fact that we’ve been able to gain more and more support — from the Mayor of Ithaca, from now Senator Schumer — as we’re going into election reflects what we’ve been building for the last three years,” Berry said.

With the election now just days away, Berry said that while he believes “voters should inform themselves and make their own decisions,” Schumer’s statement “lends a lot of strength to our organization and just demonstrates how important our struggle for our workers’ rights are.”

“I wish you the best as you engage in this critical process,” Schumer said. “And I look forward to on ongoing relationship with Cornell University and all its vital components to continue to build that great institution’s capabilities and impact.”

  • Frustrated grad student

    So, a politician sees an opportunity to cash in on some publicity. Hey, Schumer, real spirited defence letting Trump have most of his cabinet picks. Sessions was great work.

    This is less meaningful than an endorsement from the actress on big bang theory, at least she was a grad student.

  • Frustrated grad student

    Also, Cornel Sun, way to manipulate the headline. He is supporting CGSU, not Cornel Workers.

  • Booo


  • Alan

    Schumer has been one of few high ranking democrats to really embrace Bernie’s side of the party since the election, for instance endorsing keith ellison for democratic party chair. personally i’m happy to have him on our team right now and it speaks volumes that cornell’s management is so willing the fight against us and send out condescending ‘ask a deans’ — while major politicians, normally cautious folks, are willing to support us. the reasons are simple, it’s insulting to us and to everything universities stand for that the cornell managment opposes the premise of our even having workers rights, such as insisting that we still don’t qualify for workers compensation in most circumstances

    i’ve had enough of dean knuth’s lies, it’s clear management isn’t on our team

    Proud-to-be-Voting- Yes-Grad

  • Pingback: New York Senator Announces Support for Cornell Grad Workers - CineMontage()

  • If anyone is interested, I wrote a post on my blog where I argue that 1) CGSU is making the case in favor of unionization dishonestly by cherry-picking the evidence to support their claims that students would benefit from it, 2) the groups to which CGSU is affiliated and to which most of our dues would go if we vote in favor of unionization are deeply immoral organizations that have a negative effect on education in the US and we should not fund them with dues taken from our wages and 3) even if people disagree with me about that, it’s wrong to use the law to force your colleagues to pay dues to organizations they don’t want to be associated with. Please share it as widely as possible if you think it’s interesting.

  • Philippe_Skeptic

    Hi Philippe,

    I think I speak for most at this institution when I say we appreciate honest and open debate.

    But at the moment quite frankly, nobody has time to read your 5000+ word blog post. It’s also notable that your comment does not provide any actual information. What claims do you allege are ‘dishonestly cherry-picked’? Who are these ‘deeply immoral organizations’ you don’t bother naming? And why are they ‘deeply immoral’?

    I wouldn’t let my students get away with turning in such sloppy work

    • For someone who claims to appreciate honest and open debate, you don’t strike as debating very honestly and openly. I wrote a very detailed blog post to explain my position which answers all the questions you asked. It’s not my fault if you didn’t even bother reading it. But I’m going to answer your questions anyway.

      CGSU claims on its website that students can only benefit from unionization in terms of stipends and compensation, but as I show in my post, use cherry-picked evidence to support that claim and neglect to mention crucial information. For instance, they use the example of NYU, the only private university where grad students have been able to form a union and where collective bargaining resulted in a contract so far. They say that the stipends of grad students has increased by 38% since the first contract was signed in 2002. But, as I explain in my post, NYU ceased to recognize the first union in 2005, after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reversed its decision the year before that. It was only in 2015 that another contract was signed after NYU recognized the union again in 2013. So, between 2002 and today, the terms of employment of grad students at NYU were only determined by collective bargaining during approximately 5 years, something CGSU doesn’t mention… Moreover, as I also explain in my post, 38% probably doesn’t even compensate for the loss of purchasing power caused by inflation during that period.

      CGSU also claims that, if the grad students don’t like the contract offered by Cornell, they won’t vote to accept it. But, as I explain in my post, it doesn’t matter: as long as the NLRB rules that the university bargained in good faith, the law says that it can just implement its last offer whether the grad students like it or not. But CGSU doesn’t explain that, they make people think that unionization could not possibly reduce their disposable income, which is simply false. Again, I explain all that in detail in my post, and provide evidence for every single factual claim I make.

      The organizations I’m talking about are the AFT and NYSUT, to which CGSU are affiliated. They are immoral because they spend millions of dollars in lobbying to oppose reforms in education that would benefit poor people in the US or promote reforms that harm them. For instance, as I explain in my post, they recently supported the decision to drop a literacy test that used to be mandatory for teachers to be certified in the state of New York. And I say more in my post.

      Again, I’m not asking anyone to take my word for it: I give evidence for all the claims I make and I encourage people to read my post with a skeptical mind and verify everything I say. You didn’t even bother reading my post, as you yourself admit, instead you called it “sloppy work” and said that you wouldn’t let your students get away with that even though you haven’t read it. I sure as hell hope that you actually read your students’ work before you call it “sloppy”…

    • It’s also worth noting, as again I explain in my post, that the National Labor Relations Board is going to be filled with people appointed by Trump. So who do you think it’s more likely to rule against if the negotiations reach an impasse and it has to decide whether Cornell bargained in good faith? Remember that, if the negotiations reach an impasse and the NLRB rules in favor of Cornell, it can just implement its last offer even if CGSU and the grad students don’t like it.

  • borris batanov

    You wanna see what kind of schmuck Schmucky Chucky is, see the movie Waco:Rules 0f Engagement, see how he abuses Davidian witnesses. This man is a viscous pig. He did everything he could to lie and cover up the government’s brutal, merciless murder of 23 Davidian children, carried out by Clinton and his AG, Janet Reno. See the movie and make up your own mind.

  • borris batanov

    Imdb, Waco: The Rules of Engagement, 8.1:


  • Philippe_Skeptic

    Hi Philippe ,
    I do appreciate you providing some facts in your post – so that now some of your argument is public and visible without having us spend 5000+ words reading time to parse through it (at what cost..?!). Still, you seem to have a lot of trouble being concise. Here’s a few rebuttals:

    Re your point on stipends: You neglect the main issue which is that Cornell can (and has!) unilaterally decreased stipends, like they did to RAs in 2014. Here in the Cornell mgmt’s own words:

    “Many of the Life Science fields report that their competitors for graduate students are within the flagship state schools which generally have relatively lower assistantship stipend rates than does Cornell […] spurring questions about appropriate rates for RA stipends.”

    Basically, they cut stipend rates b/c they figured they could save on costs since competitor programs esp in CALS, paid so much less. Notably, no mention by the admins of actual cost of living or the value of grad labor. You can read the whole document and you’re your own conclusions on our website – suffice to say, we can’t trust the mgmt to look out for our own interest. We’re not going to change this power imbalance without a union

    • I don’t see what relevance this has to what I’m saying in my post. I’m not sure that you understand the meaning of the word “rebuttal”: to rebut something, what you say has to bear on the claim you purport to rebut. Nowhere in my post do I deny that Cornell can unilaterally decrease stipends. What I’m arguing is that CGSU is making the case that we can only benefit from unionization dishonestly, something that nobody who is reasonably intelligent and has read my post can deny. The fact that Cornell can unilaterally decrease stipends, which again I never denied, is neither here nor there.

  • Philippe_Skeptic

    Also Philippe — to be clear — I’m calling your posted comment “sloppy” and I’d be happy to make the same claim again. It doesn’t actually have any information, makes fear-mongering claims, and requires all of us to spend who knows how much time reading your extraordinarily long-winded letter. I do appreciate your latest post

    Still, I’ve also got major concerns with your point on voting for a contract, you say that CGSU can just ignore grad opinions and negotiate any contract without any democratic participation — this is simply false, fear-mongering (re your comments: “the NLRB rules that the university bargained in good faith, the law says that it can just implement its last offer whether the grad students like it or not.”) You can read more on your “Creating Our Negotiating Committee” page on the website:

    “Once the negotiating committee and management tentatively agree to a contract—our “collective bargaining agreement”—it will be put to a vote of all CGSU members. In other words, we authorize the negotiating committee to bargain on our behalf, but we all vote on any contract resulting from those negotiations. If approved, the contract will be valid for some set number of years, as defined by the agreement, after which we’ll renegotiate the contract to incorporate our ever-evolving needs.”

    • “Still, I’ve also got major concerns with your point on voting for a contract, you say that CGSU can just ignore grad opinions and negotiate any contract without any democratic participation — this is simply false, fear-mongering”

      I never said that, it’s not my fault if you didn’t read me carefully. What I’m saying is that, when a negotiating committee has been put in place and the collective bargaining process has started (I’m not talking about the process to decide who will be on it), if the negotiations with Cornell reach an impasse and the NLRB rules that the university bargained in good faith, Cornell can just implement its last offer even if CGSU doesn’t like it and/or the members refuse to vote it. This is what the law says and anyone who denies it is either lying or doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I give a link to the official website of the NLRB that explains that in my post. Again, I encourage people to actually read my post and judge for themselves, instead of listening to people who haven’t read it, didn’t understand it and/or willingly distort it to make it look as though I’m lying.