In the midst of union voting last week, information was reported about U.S. Department of Labor documents that showed United Auto Workers paid two leaders of the Council of Graduate Students in 2010.
Prior to the disclosure of this information, these two leaders co-wrote an open letter in support of the union, signing it, along with other executive members, with their COGS titles. Graduate students who oppose the union’s formation called the letter unethical because COGS, as well as the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, are supposed to remain neutral on the issue of unionization.
It was appropriate for the letters written by members of COGS and GAPSA to include their official titles because they clearly were written by individuals to address a specific issue raised by President Eric Kaler about how student government works with the administration on behalf of graduate students. The authors’ titles are relevant information for readers to understand their argument. Had members not included their titles, those against the union would have complained just as loudly about deception or lack of disclosure.
However, we think those COGS members who worked for the union should have been more transparent about their connection. We understand the need for compensation for organizing efforts, and we think COGS members should have the freedom to participate in organizing if it’s their desire. However, neglecting to mention the close connection is disingenuous.
That being said, individual organizers’ actions don’t take away from the benefits a union will provide to graduate student workers at the University of Minnesota. Those using incidents like this to attack the union as a whole have given into mudslinging.