Cameron Pollack / Sun Photography Editor

Last year, CGSU demanded an election for the unionization of graduate students.

February 6, 2018

Graduate Students Will File Objections to University Conduct in Union Recognition Election

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Cornell Graduate Students United plans to file an objection to the University’s conduct surrounding the graduate student union recognition election held last March.

Jaron Kent-Dobias grad, CGSU communications and outreach chair, told The Sun that CGSU’s membership “pretty decisively chose not to accept the University’s offered settlements” in a referendum vote, nearly one year after the results of the election were determined too close to call.

Michaela Brangan grad, former member of the Union Management Committee, previously told The Sun that the referendum would present CGSU members with three options: filing objections with the arbitrator, accepting the University’s settlement of negotiations or accepting the results of the election. The referendum, which was slated to begin in October, concluded on Friday, Jan. 26, Kent-Dobias said.

“[The offered settlements] frankly didn’t have many of the features we would have liked to protect us from the University breaking our agreements like they did during the last campaign,” Kent-Dobias said.

Kent-Dobias said the University’s offer amounted to another union recognition election under the same terms as the first, which he said “didn’t seem like a worthwhile settlement” to CGSU members after the University had “skirted the spirit of those terms and at times the letter of them.”

Etha Susca grad, administrative liaison for CGSU and UMC member, previously told The Sun that objections would be based on alleged, unfair labor practices by the University.

These actions, Susca had said, included offering health insurance benefits to graduate students on election day, claiming CGSU intimidated voters during the election and making statements regarding unionization in the Ask a Dean forum emailed by administrators to graduate students.

Kent-Dobias noted that objections will not be filed until after CGSU holds a general assembly meeting on Feb. 15.  There, he said, members will discuss the recommended resolution they wish to submit to the arbitrator along with their objections.

Kent-Dobias said he expects the University to run “some sort of soft PR campaign” airing their views on the union recognition election.

Kent-Dobias also raised the possibility that the University could file its own objections. As The Sun previously reported, Joel Malina, vice president for university relations, told the Chronicle of Higher Education in September that if CGSU decided to file objections the University could follow suit and submit its own complaint.

The question of whether or not another union recognition election will be held remains to be determined and will be brought to membership at the upcoming meeting, Kent-Dobias said.

“I think right now most active members are pretty ambivalent about that,” he said. “I think when we file, if we do ask for a retry to the election, we will likely ask the arbitrator to make that at least a year out so that there’s time for everything to settle. Certainly we don’t have a plan to attempt anything within this semester.”

When asked about the progress of negotiations with CGSU and the University’s plans regarding the matter of graduate student unionization, the University said it had no comment at this time.