Boris Tsang / Sun Staff Photographer

CGSU meeting on February 15th, 2018.

February 16, 2018

CGSU Finalizes Objections to University Conduct in Union Recognition Election, University Responds to Claims

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Cornell Graduate Students United will inform the American Federation of Teachers’ legal counsel of its request to file objections regarding the University’s conduct in its March 2017 union recognition election on Friday.

At its General Assembly meeting on Thursday, CGSU agreed on the specific remedies to request along with its objections, which will allege that the University violated federal labor law and the Union-University Conduct Rules and Recognition Election Agreement during the election.

John Carberry, the senior director of media relations for the University, told The Sun in an email on Friday that the March 2017 election was “free and fair.”

“On March 27-28, 2017, more than 80 percent of eligible Cornell graduate assistants participated in a free and fair election supervised by the American Arbitration Association,” he wrote. “Out of the nearly 1,800 graduate assistants who cast ballots, the majority voted against unionization.”

By a show of hands, CGSU members chose to request that the University post a “Public Notice” that would notify all employees of charges filed, state that the University will not repeat its actions and include the arbitrator’s decision finding merit to these charges, according to a presentation and handout used at the meeting. The notice would be posted on employee bulletin boards and sent in an email to all employees.

The body also voted to establish a window of time during which CGSU could request a new union recognition election, wherein CGSU would maintain the option of withdrawing from any election.

Members of CGSU met the vote results with enthusiasm.

Aubrie James grad, chair of the legal affairs standing committee, said she is “excited” about the body’s decision.

“I’m really happy to be here now and see … an end to this chapter of sort of being suspended and waiting for us to all come to this decision,” she told The Sun.

CGSU decided to file objections after a referendum of its membership, which ended in January. The referendum had presented CGSU members with the options of filing objections, accepting the University’s proposed settlement of negotiations or accepting the results of the election, which are still unresolved.

It was revealed on Thursday that 469 CGSU members had voted in the referendum, with the results “overwhelmingly” supporting the choice to file objections, according to the meeting handout. The turnout was at least one-third of current CGSU membership based on estimates of the total number of members, the handout noted.

The objections will be based on CGSU’s claims that the University offered new health insurance benefits during the union recognition election, sent an email on the night before the election that suggested that unionization may reduce the number of graduate students at Cornell and announced on election morning that the union was reported to be engaging in voter intimidation.

Carberry said the University had worked with the unions aiming to represent Cornell graduate assistants before the election “to establish a set of campaign and election guidelines tailored to the unique environment of graduate education.”

“Cornell honored its commitment and applicable law throughout the campaign and the election,” he wrote. “We understand that this issue has created divisions within the graduate student community, and believe it is time to finalize and certify the results of the election so we can move forward together and continue our collective work to strengthen graduate education at Cornell.”

Matthew Fischer-Daly grad explained during the meeting that filing objections will mean the election will be closed.

After CGSU communicates its request to the AFT’s legal counsel, the counsel will file objections with the arbitrator, who will then notify the University and decide how to determine the merit of CGSU’s complaints, according to the meeting handout. The arbitrator will issue a finding after briefs by both sides and a hearing involving both parties.

The University suggested in September that if CGSU filed objections, the University would follow suit and file objections against CGSU, as previously reported by The Sun.

When asked whether she was hopeful that the arbitrator would rule in favor of CGSU, James said she was “not placing bets” but that she was “relieved” to have a resolution after negotiations and the referendum.

“Getting to the point where we now have a decision in hand, like finally, about how we’re going to deal with the election and the actions that happened I think is good enough for me,” she told The Sun. “Whether or not the arbitrator says what I want them to say … is out of my hands so I don’t really speculate.”