Union organizers continue drive

Kelly Hildebrandt

In a general consensus, about 40 members of the Graduate Students Organizing Congress opted to continue the signature drive Wednesday night during a stewards’ council meeting. The organization is sponsoring a drive to obtain a union election for graduate assistants.
GradSOC hopes to end the drive by the end of January with signatures from about 65 percent of the graduate students, said Andrew Seligsohn, a member of the GradSOC steering committee.
GradSOC only needs to obtain signatures from 35 percent of the graduate assistants to win the right to hold a union election. However, its goal is to obtain support from more than 50 percent of graduate assistants because to win an actual union election they would need support from the majority of graduate assistants, said Britt Abel, a GradSOC steering committee member.
“We hate to see all the work we’ve done go to waste,” said Abel, referring to their efforts to receive more signatures than necessary.
Although members of GradSOC are confident they’ll receive a union election they said the over-all goal of the drive is to talk to as many graduate assistants as possible.
“This isn’t just trying to get people on board with one conversation and a quick yes or no,” said John Schampel, a graduate assistant in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. “We’re building an organization as well.”
When GradSOC submits the signatures, the state Bureau of Mediation Services will check them for validity and determine if there is enough support to hold a union election. Only graduate students employed by the University are eligible to sign a card.
If a union election is granted, it would occur in the spring; GradSOC needs 50 percent plus one vote to win an election, said Peter Obermeyer, a BMS mediator.
If graduate assistants win, they would start bargaining with the University to create a contract. Through the contract, GradSOC would like better wages, health benefits and a cap on student fees.
In continuance of the signature drive GradSOC is holding a “Day of Action” on Jan. 8 to host more discussions on what a union means to graduate assistants.