NEWS

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October 18, 2017

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11:01 p.m.

What Graduate Students Had to Say After Casting Their Unionization Votes

The two-day election for graduate student unionization came to a close at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Votes will be tallied Thursday morning at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regional office. As voting occurred at four locations on campus, The Maroon talked to graduate students after they submitted ballots.

One graduate student said she was still undecided when she entered the voting booth.

“I was thinking about voting yes in the process because the administration wanted to fight it so badly, which said to me that they had something to fear about the vote,” she said. “In the end I decided to vote no because I feel like we don’t have enough information or concrete plans about what would happen.”

A pro-unionization graduate student described how she viewed the stakes: “A lot of us are living in almost poverty conditions; we’re really overworked, the school’s not very supportive—it’s been great to have this group of grad students coming together.”

Another graduate student expressed concerns about relationships with faculty changing, which has been of the administration’s main arguments against unionization.

“I would be for a union if it could put across the main concerns we have as graduate students without significantly changing the relationship with the faculty, which is what I was most concerned about,” she said.

A first-year graduate student in the computational neuroscience program who ultimately voted for unionization said she had concerns during the process about the election and the campaigns that led up to it.

“I was very conflicted in thinking about this,” she said. “Generally, I am very pro-union, but I’m not happy with the way that everything has been done regarding setting up the union voting, and even just setting up the union in general on campus.”

Since filing with the NLRB last quarter, organizers with Graduated Students United (GSU) have petitioned for increased support among graduate students, as the University administration stressed caution against rashly voting for unionization.

One graduate student interviewed found the pro-unionization efforts offputting. “The union organizers are too aggressive. I voted yes, but almost voted no because of the aggression.”

For a third-year graduate student in the history department, her ambivalence focused more on the aftermath of the election than the actual vote.

“I’m looking forward to it being resolved,” she said. “Either way, something’s going to change. If it fails, there are a lot of things that haven’t been addressed and I don’t know how that’s going to play for the University. Alternatively, if the unionization efforts win, how is that going to immediately, tangibly, take effect?”

Overall, the interviewed graduate students were anxious for the ballot counting on Thursday, and nervous about its outcome.

“I’m hoping we will have a say, which we have not had since I’ve been here. I am cautiously optimistic the vote will be a success,” said a preceptor in the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities who voted yes.

As expressed by a second-year genetics graduate student, the election’s results would be revealing—regardless of the turnout.

“I think it’s a relevant issue for the students that are working here, and I’m glad that there’s a voting process actually taking place,” he said. “I’m looking forward to hearing what people think.”

Lauren Pankin contributed reporting. 

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