Over the last year, the Coalition of Graduate Employees (CGE) has been campaigning to create a graduate employee union here at Penn State and join the ranks of more than 30 other universities around the country with graduate employee unions. Within the Big Ten, graduate employees at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Rutgers University have established unions.
On Wednesday, Penn State’s Coalition of Graduate Employees took the next step in their campaign by filing for union representation with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. CGE intends to unionize to improve working conditions, increase compensation, and increase child care subsidies for graduate employees.
If CGE is able to proceed in their unionization process, they will become the second university in Pennsylvania to create a graduate employee union. Graduate employees at Temple University established a union in 2001.
CGE has faced an uphill battle in the unionization process. “Sadly, the administration has misinformed Penn State graduate employees about their rights, and what unionizing means,” CGE Co-President Doug Kulchar said. “We hope that moving forward, we can help give Penn State graduate employees forthright and honest information so they can cast an informed ballot.”
In addition to filing with Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, CGE also delivered letters addressed to President Barron and the Board of Trustees to their offices in Old Main requesting non-interference in their election process. The letters were signed by members of the community, advocacy groups, and even Penn State alumnus Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, the largest organizer of labor unions in the country.
CGE hopes the administration will uphold Penn State’s values by committing to remaining neutral in the unionization process. “We are confident the administration will make the right choice to live those values by committing to neutrality, and we look forward to working with them to advance the election process,” CGE Co-President Cassie McMillan said.
Penn State’s graduate employees are projected to hold their vote by the end of the semester. CGE is optimistic these efforts will successfully establish the union.