Graduate workers vote, reject union

Of 4,496 eligible University graduate employees, 4,461 cast ballots.

by Matt Graham

UCorrection: the Daily incorrectly reported the number of eligible voters and the number who cast ballots. Out of 4,461 eligible voters, 3,075 cast ballots, with three blank ballots and two void ballots.

University graduate employees voted last week not to unionize.

The Graduate Teaching and Research Assistants Coalition United Electrical Local 1105 was defeated, with 1,296 votes in favor and 1,779 votes against, according to Josh Tilsen, of the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services. The results were released Monday.

Of 4,496 eligible voters, 4,461 cast ballots, he said.

Tilsen said the rest of the votes could not be tabulated.

Ken Williams, a chemical engineering research assistant and president of Truth About Unionization, a union opposition group, said, “The students voted, and they made their decision.”

But Williams said he has mixed feelings about the result. “I’m glad we got the vote out, but I know there’s a lot of students out there who are disappointed from their side.

“I just hope our group was able to shed some light on the situation.”

Williams said he hopes there can still be an interdepartmental dialogue between union supporters and opponents to discuss graduate employee issues.

Ryan Murphy, a union organizer and American studies fellow, said he is disappointed in the outcome.

He said the University is encouraging the union supporters to “forget about everything, join together and sing ‘Kumbaya’ Ö but our question (for the University) is, ‘Well, now what?’ “

Murphy said graduate student employees still face the same problems they faced before.

“Not only are the workers still facing the poverty they’re in, but conditions are actually getting worse,” he said.

Carol Carrier, University vice president for human resources, wrote in an e-mail that the union raised “some good issues” about graduate employee pay, positions and health benefits.

“Our grad assistants contribute enormously to theproductivity of this institution, and supporting them is a high priority,” she wrote. 

While the union was defeated in this vote, Murphy said, union organizers are not giving up.

“We plan to regroup and push forward,” he said.

University graduate employees last held a union vote in 1999, when the Graduate Student Organizing Congress was defeated by a margin of 1,248-1,713.