GUEST ROOM | Graduate Students’ Workers Compensation

By BARBARA A. KNUTH

Workers compensation for graduate and professional student injuries is an important topic of much discussion around campus of late. I would like to contribute by sharing information about workers compensation benefits as they relate to injuries among our graduate and professional students. Let’s start with eligibility.  Eligibility for workers compensation for a specific injury is not up to Cornell; such decisions are under the jurisdiction of the New York State Workers Compensation Board. If a graduate student is injured while performing services for Cornell, the student has the ability to file for and receive workers compensation according to New York state eligibility criteria.

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Cornell Graduate Students United Promote Movement in ‘We Are Workers Day of Action’

Cornell Graduate Students United came out with 20 other labor unions of graduate workers at private universities from all over the country — including Harvard, University of Michigan and Wayne State University — in order to call for the reform of higher education. The organization hosted activities on Thursday — also known as the “We Are Workers Day of Action” — to raise public awareness that many graduate students are not recognized as workers. “This is a national day of action that will be taking place around the country to remind university administrations that graduate students are workers and deserve to have their voice heard and rights respected in the workplace,” said Andrew Crook, a member of CGSU. In 2004, Brown University argued in front of the National Labor Relations Board that teaching and research are essential parts of academic development and graduate training. The outcome of this ruling denied the rights of the employee-employer relationship to graduates working for private universities.

Graduate Students Move to Join Teachers’ Federation

Moving forward in their push for graduate student unionization, an “overwhelming majority” of Cornell Graduate Students United members voted Thursday to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers and its state affiliate, New York State United Teachers, according to James Ingoldsby grad, CGSU communications and outreach chair. The decision to affiliate with the AFT had been in process for nine months and was determined by an internal CGSU vote, Ingoldsby said. “We were convinced the AFT was best placed to provide us with the support necessary to achieve justice for the thousands of graduate employees who take on steep teaching and research loads each semester,” Ingoldsby said in a statement. “Cornell works because we do, and we look forward to harnessing the power of our membership to escalate our campaign.”

CGSU, which has been an independent union since its inception, will have the support and resources of the NYUST, which currently represents 600,000 members, and the AFT, according to the release. “Today, graduate employees at Cornell stood up to say, ‘We deserve to have our voices heard,’ just like the tens of thousands of graduate students already affiliated with the AFT,” said Randi Weingarten ’80, president of the AFT, in yesterday’s release.