Opportunities remain in wake of union vote

Fortunately for the entire University, the majority of graduate assistants behaved rationally and ethically by voting against the Graduate Student Organizing Congress’ proposed union. In the aftermath of the vote, however, there is still work to be done by all involved parties.
The 57 to 43 percent margin of victory for those opposed to unionization should not be taken by GradSOC members as an indication that the tides are changing on campus — two similar elections in the past 20 years were voted down by more than a two-to-one margin. On the contrary, this year’s election indicates that graduate assistants are rightfully content with their compensation from and representation in the University.
Rather than hiding in the background and bringing the union debate back to campus in a few years, union supporters would do well to let the matter drop once and for all. The energies that were devoted to creating a union would serve the graduate student community much better if they were directed into the established representative bodies, the Council of Graduate Students and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. Both of these organization currently lack sufficient strong leadership and representation. GradSOC’s members demonstrated both and could make valuable contributions for their fellow graduate students.
Likewise, members of Graduate Students Against Unionization should not gloat in their victory. They should continue to fight for what is best for their peers, contributing their skills in tandem with their former opponents. Being opposed to a union did not mean being opposed to graduate students’ rights. Improvements should still be fought for. Graduate students can be united without the rhetoric of a union. That should be everyone’s ultimate goal.
The University’s administration must also learn a lesson from the vote. Administrators must act in good faith, proving the trust graduate students placed in it by voting down a union was not foolish. Even if the majority is content, not all are happy. Better health care and wages given in the past two years only represent a start. The collective voice of graduate students must continue to capture the ears of administrators. In order to prevent a slide from being a top-tier research institution, the University officials must listen to graduate students’ worries and initiate improvements regularly, not just when a union threatens.
Well-treated graduate students are part of any great university. When graduate students voice their needs and administrators listen, the entire University community benefits, not just one segment. Cooperation is the key waiting to be turned in the wake of the vote. During this time of transition at the University, it is in everyone’s interest to reaffirm a commitment to working together.
In 20 years, we will hopefully look back on two decades of a united graduate student body that has worked well with a concerned administration. Progress will have been made and graduate students will still come to one of the best places in the nation to pursue advanced studies. We have the opportunity to stand as one of the largest non-unionized campuses where respect is freely given, not fought for. We should not pass up this chance.