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September 25, 2018

GSU May Consider Work Stoppages if UChicago Refuses to Bargain

Graduate Students United (GSU) says that it may enact its first ever work-stoppage if its other options to be recognized as UChicago’s graduate student union during fall quarter fail. It said that the details, including what kinds of work could be covered, would be up to its members when the time came.

Last October, GSU won an election sanctioned by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), furthering its bid to become UChicago’s union for graduate teaching and research assistants. However, the University immediately challenged that election’s outcome.

GSU withdrew its petition in February, arguing that new Trump Administration NLRB appointees would likely overturn the right to unionize that the NLRB extended to graduate students in an August 2016 ruling. Since then it has pursued a ‘voluntary recognition’ campaign, pressing for recognition directly from the University.

If UChicago’s graduate students do stop work, they will be far from the first. Graduate students at Columbia held a weeklong strike last April, protesting Columbia’s refusal to recognize their graduate union. NYU’s graduate student union, which NYU voluntarily recognized in 2013, went on strike multiple times during its campaign to gain recognition.

In an e-mail to The Maroon, GSU said that stopping work would be a last resort, and said its scale and format would be decided by members.

“[Work stoppages are] always on the table for a union seeking a contract when the administration is refusing to bargain,” Katie Nolan, GSU’s communications secretary and a PhD student in English, wrote. “Withholding labor is one of the most powerful tools workers have to demand changes, but it’s usually a final resort when rallies, petitions, and other types of campaign actions do not work.”

GSU’s other plans for the fall include efforts to improve its visibility among undergraduates. The union plans to hold “office hours” in campus coffee shops and distribute more information about its efforts.

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