Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Union Makes Sense for Grad Students

For the folks not in Minnesota, I apologize for continuing to bring up geographically-linked news, but I think this one is important. Graduate students at the University of Minnesota are running a tight, quick, seemingly well-organized unionization drive. I think this is great, and while everyone is entitled to their own opinion and own vote, I think that grad students who have their own best personal, financial, and professional interests at heart (as well as the interests of others, including future generations of scholars) should vote for the union during elections next week. It makes sense.

A union will give graduates students a voice with the administration - a voice that is not funded by the U, a voice that is stronger collectively than each of our individual graduate student voices could ever be. A voice that, through contract negotiations, is more difficult for the University to overlook. There is a serious problem with only having graduate and professional groups that meet as University student organizations. The University may or may not listen to what we have to say, may or may not take seriously the problems and ideas we bring to them, and may or may not take action. A union would lessen that uncertainty.

A union will give us more channels we can use to address workplace issues, including working conditions and work load. These are channels that can be used in addition to the discussions with department administrators and with the professors for whom we TA and RA, not instead of.

Studies show that unionization does not affect advisor/advisee collegiality or otherwise strain the working relationship.

Finally, a note on this particular campaign: ther are questions about the rapidity of the campaign and challenges to GradTRAC/UE to disclose how much money they have spent on U graduate students. Well, I'm sure UE has spent some, but a lot of the people I have met and spoken to are volunteer organizers rather than national reps and paid organizers. I've seen the inner workings of a unionization campaign before, at Penn State, and I am very impressed with the way this campaign has been run (and also, I know that it's highly unlikely that anyone is glibly throwing around the green). At Penn State, the unionization drive had been going on before I arived to begin my MA, and it was still going on when I left after receiving that MA two years later. Organizers burnt out, leadership burnt out, and while I am not sure what happened, I can't even find the web site for the GFTEO, the organizing group there. Running a fast campaign is smart, smart, smart. Good for the UE for committing resources up front and getting the election taken care of, rather than running a lengthy organizing campaign which would probably consume more resources and simply fatigue everyone.

So, if you're a grad student at the U, think seriously about the decision before voting next week. And make sure you do vote next week! Vote your convictions. Me? I'll be voting for the union!

- posted by laurie @ 4/05/2005 06:08:00 AM
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