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Coalition Of Graduate Employees Celebrates Union Rights With Rally On Old Main

The Coalition of Graduate Employees (CGE) took to the Old Main steps on Wednesday to celebrate its right to unionize following a ruling from the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) last week.

The PLRB ruling that Penn State’s graduate assistants have union rights under the Pennsylvania Employee Relations Act came after a week-long hearing in September.

Approximately 100 students and faculty members were at the rally — carrying signs stating “my research is work,” “graduate students are workers too,” and “faculty support.”

Doug Allen, a former football player and current professor of practice in labor and employment relations, led a “we want unions” chant. Allen has plenty of experience in union work, serving as a regional director for the AFL-CIO committee on political education and assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association.

Penn State voiced its displeasure with the PLRB ruling, but now has turned its focus to the upcoming unionization vote.

“Penn State encourages its eligible graduate students to seek out information now, so that when the time comes, they can vote having weighed all aspects,” the university provided in a statement. “A simple majority of those who actually vote determines the result for all graduate students in the bargaining unit — including those who don’t vote, those who vote ‘no,’ and even future students who have not yet applied to Penn State.”

GPSA, Penn State’s graduate student government, stated that it’s not for or against unionizing, but that it’s encouraging students to vote on the matter.

The university has maintained that graduate students do not mirror the same roles as employees, emphasizing the educational aspect of why they’re here.

“The graduate student-faculty relationship is very different than that of employer and employee,” the university’s statement reads. “Introducing a union into this relationship would fundamentally alter the graduate student experience and the fabric of graduate programs at Penn State for years to come. Unions bargain for the group, not for individual students, which could restrict flexibility within programs and for individual students.”

About the Author

Steve Connelly

Steve Connelly is a junior majoring in PR and an editor for Onward State. He is a proud native of the state of New Jersey, and yes, he is literal trash. He is a soccer fan, nap enthusiast, and chicken tender connoisseur. He tried to be a photographer once, but the only good thing that came out of it is a name for his future sports bar, The Blurry Zamboni. You can follow him on Twitter @slc2o (feel free to slide), email him at [email protected], or come say hi to him in his office, the Irving's basement.

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