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.”