Jeremy Taff

In a move that has divided the campus community in the past, the Graduate Student Organizing Congress kicked off a drive Monday to unionize the 3,700 graduate assistants by the end of the next academic year.
Although University administrators, faculty and GradSOC members disagree on what took place leading up to the last union vote eight years ago, two things are certain: Rumors were allegedly spread and graduate assistants voted down the union 1,810 votes to 885.
The organization has six months to get 30 percent of research and teaching assistants on campus to sign cards saying they want GradSOC as their union before they can petition the state Bureau of Mediation Services to hold a vote next spring. They are striving to collect 65 percent — or 2,500 — of the graduate assistants’ signatures for the petition.
In what University officials call rumor and GradSOC members call fact, during the 1990 vote international graduate assistants were somehow given the impression that they could lose their jobs if they joined the union.
Without information to support her claims, GradSOC union leader Tamara Joseph said the University published the misinformation intentionally, then retracted the claims 10 days later.
“They said ‘If you join the union we won’t be able to fund you anymore,'” Joseph said. “‘Sorry, you will all have to go home.'”
“It was a rumor,” said Dennis Clayton, department director of the graduate student equal opportunity employment office. He said the University sent out accurate information refuting the gossip. “We wanted to make sure that international students had the necessary information.”
Joseph said she expects more of the same before this year’s election.
“I’m sure we will get the U coming up with some set of pretty terrifying stories right before the election again, making it difficult for us to respond,” she said.
GradSOC members said that after the 1990 election the old bulletins were discarded after the University announced its retraction.
Last year Albert Nakano headed the Council for Graduate Students, an organization accused of anti-union bias before the last vote.
Nakano said GradSOC members are spreading untrue information about the previous election.
“They’ve got a distorted view of what happened back then,” Nakano said. “Their tactics are misleading.”
Nakano said COGS, which represents the almost 6,000 graduate students on campus, would neither support or denounce GradSOC’s drive to unionize.
“We’re supposed to be representing all graduate students,” Nakano said. “This is strictly a graduate assistant issue.”
Administrators still agree that if the cost of hiring graduate assistants becomes more prohibitive, it is likely that fewer grad assistants will be hired. Four months before the 1990 vote, the University took this stand in the 1990 winter quarter issue of Grapevine, a newsletter for graduate assistants.
On the GradSOC World Wide Web site, history graduate student Yuichiro Onishi tells international students: “As long as you are here on a legal permit, you have the same rights as American workers: you cannot be fired, harassed or deported for joining a union.”