Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board Host Conference Call With Penn State Attorneys Over Graduate Employee Unionization

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The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) Thursday hosted a conference call with attorneys representing Penn State and attorneys representing the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). PSEA is representing the interests of the Coalition of Graduate Employees (CGE), a Penn State organization hoping to establish a graduate employee union and collectively bargain for better compensation and benefits.

Earlier this week, President Barron released a statement against the union citing the inability of a union to represent individuals effectively and how it can “impede the academic and mentoring relationships Penn State has with its graduate students.”

CGE has called Barron’s statement to be “empirically false” and “misinformation.”

PLRB rules require this conference call to be held in order to identify issues that require a hearing before they can determine if an election should be held. According to a statement released by the Graduate School at Penn State, “The PLRB will hold hearings to determine whether Penn State graduate students are employees within the meaning of the Pennsylvania Employee Relations Act (PERA) and also whether certain graduate students will be included within any potential unit under Pennsylvania law.”

To date, the PLRB hasn’t determined if an election will be held or if it’s appropriate to have one at all.

“Penn State plans on doubling down on their argument that graduate employees are NOT employees — they plan to challenge the Temple ruling,” CGE Chief Media Officer Kyler Sherman-Wilkins said. “Essentially, they are trying to reverse a well established legal precedent for the sake of taking up time.”

Temple University has had a graduate employee union since 2001 and the graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh are attempting to hold their own vote next semester.

Sherman-Wilkins is also concerned that Penn State attorneys might try to decertify CGE’s union cards. “Penn State’s attorneys are attempting to decertify some of the cards,” Sherman-Wilkins said. “They weren’t able to articulate specifics, and are still conducting research.”

According to Penn State Director of Media Relations Lisa Powers, “PLRB procedures do not allow for ‘decertifying cards.’ Penn State identified a possible disconnect between the cards that were signed by graduate students and the groups listed on the petition, which we are still investigating.”

CGE doesn’t expect the election to occur this fall anymore. “The election date can only be determined after Penn State’s legal challenges make their way through the courts,” Sherman-Wilkins said.

Photo By: Joshua Lee
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