News, University News

SUGSE fears University stalling talks on grad student unionization

U. disputes January deadline for reaching agreement on union pre-election

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 2, 2018

The University and graduate students have not yet been able to reach a decision on union pre-elections, according to Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees. Politico reported that the University and its graduate student employees were to reach an agreement by the end of January — though the University disputes this timeline.

The lack of a resolution “puts into doubt whether there will be a union election, according to grad students,” according to Politico.

“Earlier this week Stand Up for Graduate Student Employees sent out a statement to graduate students expressing our concern that the Brown administration was stalling negotiations aimed at arriving at a pre-election agreement,” wrote Dennis Hogan GS in a statement representing SUGSE to The Herald.

SUGSE’s statement pointed to “Brown’s decision to hire Proskauer Rose, a union-busting outside law firm” as the reason for stalled negotiations. “Proskauer designed the aggressive anti-union efforts employed by administrations against their graduate workers at Cornell, Harvard and the University of Chicago. They are behind Columbia University’s recent controversial decision to refuse to come to the bargaining table with the graduate union there.”

SUGSE also considered President Trump in its statement, writing, “the Trump administration is preparing to take away our rights to choose union representation and bargain collectively with the University.” Students are worried that the University is stalling in the hope that the 2016 Columbia decision recognizing graduate students as employees is overturned, according to Politico.

The University maintains that negotiations remain productive. “There has been no failure to reach agreement — we have had productive conversations with the student representatives and the process is simply still ongoing,” wrote Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark in an email to The Herald. “No specific deadline to reach agreement was established.”

According to the Office of the Provost’s website, before a union can represent a bargaining unit, it “needs support from at least 30 percent of the members of that bargaining unit (in order to) file a petition with the (National Labor Relations Board) to proceed with that election.” Then, “organizers will file an election petition with the NLRB” and the “NLRB will seek an election agreement between the University and the union outlining key details of the election.”

The American Federation of Teachers was selected as the “affiliated labor union” in a vote held by SUGSE in March 2017, The Herald previously reported. SUGSE’s website currently makes no mention of a card campaign to establish the 30 percent requisite support. As of October 2017, SUGSE was hoping to meet with the administration to “contractually guarantee essential benefits the University already provides, such as health and dental insurance, and ensuring that grad workers are involved in any decisions to alter those benefits,” The Herald previously reported.

“We still have hope that Brown will do the right thing and allow graduate students to freely exercise their rights to a union election,” SUGSE wrote.