by Kelly Hildebrandt

Graduate assistants can officially plan on heading to the polls sometime this spring to vote on forming a union in affiliation with Education Minnesota.
Education Minnesota — composed of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association — is the teachers organization assisting and funding the Graduate Student Organizing Congress in its move to collective representation.
The state Bureau of Mediation Services issued a maintenance of status quo to the University today, which mandates that University officials do nothing to dissuade or persuade graduate assistants on how to vote in a union election. They also determined the Graduate Student Organizing Congress obtained enough signatures to hold an election.
“It’s not at all surprising,” said Britt Abel, a GradSOC member studying German. “We knew we had support when we filed the cards.”
The bureau will now meet with University officials and GradSOC representatives to set a date and determine the format of the election, said Josh Tilsen, a bureau mediator.
To win a union election, GradSOC needs to obtain 50 percent plus one vote from graduate assistants. If this occurs, GradSOC officials will begin bargaining a contract with University officials.
To obtain a union election, GradSOC had to obtain signatures from 30 percent of the roughly 4,000 graduate assistants — mainly teaching and research assistants at the University — within six months. The drive started Aug. 3 and ended Monday with a total of 2,549 signatures, constituting a majority of the graduate assistant population.
GradSOC representatives say a union will help increase wages, improve health care and put a cap on student fees. Now that a union election will occur, GradSOC will continue to talk with graduate assistants in order to build an official platform said Andrew Seligsohn, a political science student and GradSOC steering committee member, late last week.
Although the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly doesn’t have an official stance on a graduate assistant union election, the assembly will act as an information source now that an election is official, said Cheryl Jorgensen, GAPSA president.
“Our role is to be an unbiased information source,” she said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”