Graduate students at Cornell University have set dates for a vote to form a union.
The Cornell Graduate Students United group marched and delivered a solidarity petition to Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer, on March 8. The CGSU needed signatures from 30 percent of the bargaining unit, which consists of graduate students like teaching assistants, for unionization to go to a vote and become recognized by the administration.
The vote will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. March 27 and 28.
These unionization efforts are years in the making. In 2015, CSGU affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers in a referendum. On Aug. 23, the National Labor Relation Board ruled that graduate student researchers and teaching assistants are classified as workers, in addition to their status as students, allowing them to organize into labor unions and bargain collectively at private institutions across the country.
In a statement emailed to students Oct. 27, Hunter Rawlings, interim president of Cornell, voiced concern that the union would create an unnecessary divide between faculty and graduate students and disrupt shared governance at the university.
In the union’s March 12 announcement of the vote, Michaela Brangan, administrative liaison for the CSGU and an English Ph.D. candidate, wrote that the votes will be in person to protect voter security and that a subpoena has been issued to the university to provide the contact information of all potential voters to the CSGU and the American Arbitration Association.
“The word ‘subpoena’ may cause some alarm, but we know you understand that to have an informed electorate and to have all votes counted, it is necessary that we have accurate information,” she stated.