Rukavina: U should sign joint petition

A majority of graduate students have signed cards authorizing a union.

by Tom Rukavina — state representative

On Monday, it was announced that a majority of the 4,500 graduate student assistants currently working at the University of Minnesota had signed cards authorizing their union, Graduate Student Workers United/UAW, to represent them for the collective bargaining purposes. GSWU/UAW’s first choice was to have this majority verified by the Bureau of Mediation Services, which is the agency responsible for overseeing public-sector employee unions in Minnesota. Unfortunately, the University administration has refused to honor the choice of a majority of graduate assistants.
If I were a graduate student assistant at the University, I, too, would want the respect and dignity that can only be achieved when my workplace is made more democratic through a labor union that can collectively bargain for good working conditions, wages and benefits.
The University relies upon the research of graduate assistants to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in federal and private grant revenue to the University and consequently, to our state. The University also relies upon the teaching of graduate student assistants to instruct the undergraduates. One of the University’s core missions — to engage in cutting-edge research — is possible only through the dedicated, highly skilled labor of these graduate assistants.
The greatest measure of respect any employer can show for the valuable labor of its employees is to collectively bargain with them. The administration has refused to show that respect by trying to delay getting to the bargaining table with these workers’ chosen union.
The University can still agree to have the graduate student assistants’ union certified on the basis of their majority mandate. I call upon the Board of Regents to respect their choice, respect their labor, have the Bureau of Mediation Services verify their majority and commence collective bargaining with these researchers and educators as soon as possible.