Graduate Assistants United (GAU), the graduate employee union at Florida State University, released a statement late last week in support of the Penn State Coalition of Graduate Employees‘ (CGE) campaign to establish a union. Graduate employees at Florida State University established their union in 2008 during which time president Barron was the 14th President of Florida State from 2010 to 2014.
Last week, Barron released a statement against CGE’s campaign citing it’s possible harm to the academic relationships Penn State has with graduate students. CGE hopes to establish their union and collectively bargain for higher compensation and better benefits for graduate employees who are currently paid with a monthly stipend but routinely work more than their promised 20 hours per week.
The statement reads, “With all due respect to President Barron, we have to call foul on his disingenuous claims about unions impeding the academic and mentoring relationships between graduate assistants and faculty.” GAU points to the fact that while Barron was President of Florida State, their union had its biggest successes.
“Either the relationships at Penn State are far more fragile than the ones at FSU, or these claims were designed to spread misinformation for the benefit of Penn State’s administration.”
GAU points out that once they established their union in 2008, by 2009 they were able to create a minimum stipend, the right to academic freedom, and a guaranteed subsidy for health insurance. The statement goes on to break down and counter Barron’s belief that unions can’t serve the interests of individuals and that graduates students are students first and foremost.
“FSU’s reputation rose even higher, eventually propelling it to ‘preeminent status’ within the state of Florida,” the statement reads. “That doesn’t sound like a university suffering from poor academic and mentoring relationships to us. That sounds like a prime example of how unionization can make universities better places to work and learn.”
CGE previously expected their election to establish a union to occur this coming fall, but following a call with Penn State attorneys, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, and the Pennsylvania State Education Association, CGE Chief Media Officer Kyler Sherman-Wilkins no longer expects this to be the case.