Graduate student union rumors

Claims regarding unionization and international students are unfounded.

by Charmaine Chua - University student

The Minnesota DailyâÄôs March 24 article, “GAPSA considers grad unionization” contained a serious misrepresentation of the concerns of international graduate student workers regarding unionization.

In the article, Graduate and Professional Student Assembly Vice President for Student Affairs Bree Dalager claimed that she has spoken with international students who were concerned that not joining the union would affect their visa status. As an international student actively involved in unionization efforts, I have never heard any union organizer or supporter claim not signing a union card would negatively affect oneâÄôs visa status.

To be clear, federal and state laws protect our right to participate in union activities, including signing union cards, attending meetings, filing grievances under a union contract and engaging in lawful picketing activities. All workers, including international student workers legally employed in the U.S., can lawfully join and participate in a union.

It is unclear why Dalager, who is neither an international student nor a graduate student employee, has expressed this peculiar sentiment within GAPSA. Her statements are not only unfounded, but they mischaracterize international students as having no voices of their own, whether in student government or in the union.

Such assumptions demonstrate a paternalistic disrespect toward international students at the University of Minnesota. We do not need our American colleagues to speak for us; we are perfectly capable of doing so ourselves. I hope that Dalager and others are not using this “concern” for international students as part of a disingenuous attempt to thwart unionization at the University.

I encourage all graduate student employees to learn more about the contracts that unions for graduate student employees have successfully negotiated at universities across the country.