COGS and GAPSA feel weight of union support

Calls for more public information about graduate unionization are opposed by union supporters.

by Cali Owings

Graduate student government leaders are calling for more information regarding the potential unionization of graduate assistants, but union supporters are opposing their efforts.
Both the Council of Graduate Students and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly have pending resolutions asking for public information sessions about unionizing. But due to time constraints and efforts to derail discussion of the proposals, neither resolution has been voted on or approved by either association.
GAPSA Vice President for Student Affairs Bree Dalager introduced a resolution asking for more transparency from the union during GAPSAâÄôs March 23 meeting. The assembly debated whether itâÄôs appropriate for the organization to consider the proposal because many of the representativesâÄô constituencies would not be affected by unionization.
The item was up for discussion during the April 20 meeting, but time ran out. The resolution has been pushed to the last assembly meeting of the semester, May 4.
COGS did not have an opportunity to pass a proposal either. It was on the agenda for the March 9 meeting, but it also ran out of time. Emily Combs, one of the co-authors of the COGS resolution, said it was intended to bring knowledgeable parties from different sides together to create a public discussion.
After presenting the resolution for the first time, Combs said she talked with union supporters to revise it. She said their concerns were whether COGS could be impartial.
GAPSA Executive Vice President Joanna DeLaune said she thought student government could not remain unbiased in the union discussion because it is tied to the administration for funding.
Traditionally, GAPSA is funded by student services fees allocated to the group by a committee of students. GAPSA then funnels the funding to councils like COGS. Last year, since GAPSA submitted its fees request late, it was denied funding from the fees committee and received its fees allocation directly from Vice Provost Jerry Rinehart.
The COGS resolution took that concern into account. According to the document, âÄúCOGS firmly intends to remain neutral on whether graduate assistants should be represented by a union.âÄù
Combs said COGS would not likely participate in the session but invite other experts to speak on the topic. The resolution specifically calls for a representative from the union organizing committee.
COGS ran out of time at its April 13 meeting âÄî the last of the semester âÄî to discuss the resolution. Thirty signatures are required to call a special assembly meeting to vote on the resolution. Combs said she has collected more than that.
However, COGS representative Scott Petty said union supporters seemed âÄúviolently opposedâÄù to any open discussion of the process. Their outbursts during the April meeting delayed discussion of the union resolution and regular business for the organization, including a proposal to include fees in the graduate teaching assistantsâÄô tuition waivers.
Union supporters were rude to COGS officers during the meeting  March 9, Petty said. Supporters were aggressively accusing the COGS officers of being biased while the officers âÄúbent over backwardsâÄù to be civil with them, he said.
He said he saw people at the election meeting whom he had never seen during his three years with COGS. The meeting was open to public, but only representatives were allowed to vote. Restrictions on who received ballots were loose. Petty said he observed people from at least two departments voting illegally.
âÄúIf youâÄôre willing to bend the rules and behave in a rather unethical way over something thatâÄôs pretty much small potatoes, it worries me what these people would do if there were real stakes,âÄù he said. Petty said it seemed like they were doing all of this to prevent the resolution from being discussed.
âÄúIf youâÄôre opposed to the open discussion of issues, then you clearly donâÄôt belong at a university,âÄù he said.
COGS President Devin Driscoll said the group instituted a more stringent form of voting before the election because there had been more interest in COGS than usual since the March 9 meeting. Instead of signing themselves in, someone took attendance at the door and gave voting representatives ballots and voting squares, he said.
Driscoll said toward the end of the meeting there were complaints from people who said they hadnâÄôt received voting squares and some were handed out. He said he didnâÄôt think that process was as âÄúcontained as it should have been.âÄù Though he said he couldnâÄôt say for sure, he said it was possible that people who werenâÄôt voting representatives were able to vote.
Driscoll said the union resolution has dominated the agenda, though itâÄôs simply calling for more information. He said he is concerned that the resolution has become a referendum for how people feel about the union.
âÄúI donâÄôt want the organization to become a house divided,âÄù he said.
Union supporters also turned out for the GAPSA election. COGS Executive Vice President Melody Hoffmann makes sure COGS senators are in attendance during GAPSA meetings. When senators cannot attend, they use a list of alternates. Driscoll said he was aware that there were âÄúpeople serving as COGS senators who had not traditionally been a part of the alternate process.âÄù
Several of the COGS representatives seated near Hoffmann criticized Dalager for comments she made regarding the resolution when she first presented it to GAPSA in March. Dalager said she had been approached by students concerned about union rumors, including international students worried they might lose their visas if they did not sign with the union.
Dalager has stated several times that she is not opposed to unionization, but she wants students to have more information.