GAPSA considers grad unionization

The assembly also addressed OSA fee transparency and appointed a director.

At its meeting Wednesday, the University of Minnesota Graduate and Professional Student Assembly  addressed a possible union, shot down a fee waiver and filled the final spot on its executive board.
While a movement to unionize graduate students through United Auto Workers is picking up on campus, student government is unsure how to proceed in the matter.
The UAW union is one of the country’s largest and is very popular among graduate student workers on some campuses.
A resolution was tabled regarding public informational meetings about union organizing for graduate students.
Vice President for Student Affairs Bree Dalager, who co-authored the resolution, said it stemmed from student confusion regarding the potential union. While many students have only heard rumors of unionization, some have been personally approached by organizers.
Dalager said she has talked with international students who were concerned that if they didn’t join the union, they might lose their visas.
With all of the rumors and confusion surrounding the prospect of unionizing, she said public informational sessions would be valuable.
“Students have the right to ask questions,” she said.
Though the resolution was tabled for GAPSA’s April meeting, Dalager said she hoped representatives from the union, the University’s Office of Human Resources  and a labor law professor would be interested in a public discussion.
Another resolution to waive mandatory fees for graduate assistants was shot down 4-14, with two abstaining votes.
Graduate teaching and research assistants are provided benefits that cover tuition and “all or a portion of the University Fee.” Council of Graduate Students Rep. Tim Salo, who wrote the resolution, argued that graduate assistants should be granted payment or waivers for other mandatory student fees like the Student Services, Capital Enhancement  and technology fees not included in the graduate assistant tuition benefits  policy.
Salo said many students are surprised when they are charged with these fees because they thought they were covered under the benefits program.
A member of the assembly argued that graduate assistants make up a small portion of the graduate and professional student population and that this could be an issue better addressed through a union.
GAPSA adviser Megan Sweet  said if the fees were waived for graduate assistants the costs would have to be redirected since the fees are mandatory.
GAPSA Rep. Matt McGeachy said in his experience departments have to pay the fee instead.
In response to inquiries into the Office for Student Affairs  use of student fees money, GAPSA also passed a resolution Wednesday night calling for the department to provide budgetary information to the public.
The resolution, also presented by Dalager, called for a “fair and transparent fees process.”
The assembly also approved the appointment of an at-large director who will fill one of two available seats in the Student Senate. Adair Rounthwaite,  a third-year doctoral student in the art history department, was appointed to the position by GAPSA President Abou Amara.
Rounthwaite said she was motivated to get involved with GAPSA after noticing the direct effects of the budget crisis in her department.
With Rounthwaite’s appointment, GAPSA has its entire executive board filled for the rest of the semester.