Graduate students at the University of Chicago have taken the next step toward unionization by initiating an affiliation referendum. This vote will decide which labor union Graduate Students United (GSU) will affiliate with, should its push for unionization succeed.
On Tuesday evening, GSU began voting to decide whether the graduate-run organization will remain affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), or affiliate with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73. GSU’s referendum is scheduled to run until midnight of this coming Tuesday, with results being announced soon thereafter.
AFT and SEIU are both major labor unions with about 1.6 million and 1.9 million members, respectively. Non-tenure track faculty at the University of Chicago chose to unionize with SEIU Local 73 this past December.
The union chosen by GSU will contribute resources and organizing muscle to GSU’s push for union certification. Once an affiliate union has been decided upon, GSU will proceed with the election process. This process will begin with a preliminary petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB); if 30 percent of graduate students sign, the NLRB will schedule an election. A majority vote at this stage would complete the unionization process.
“GSU members are making a decision regarding our current union affiliation. Whatever the results, we look forward to continuing to organize in a legal environment sustained by the recent NLRB ruling, which has recognized something that has been obvious to graduate students for quite a long time: that we work here,” wrote several members of the GSU Organizing Committee in an email to The Maroon.
GSU’s efforts toward unionization come as a result of the NLRB’s recent ruling that graduate students are workers under federal labor law.