The facts support unionization efforts

Without a union, there is no process to get regular raises to keep up with cost of living.

There has been a lively debate both on campus and in The Minnesota Daily about the election for Graduate Teaching and Research Assistants Coalition United Electrical Local 1105, the union for graduate employees, which is taking place this week.

I want to briefly review the facts about what life is like for graduate employees at the University without a union and propose that this situation mandates a new method of representation.

Right now, the University comes in at No. 11 in the Big Ten in terms of average pay. This figures in the wages of the 35 percent of us that are paid the base pay rate of $13.85 an hour and the much larger group whose wages are higher than this level.

Yet, even the wages of the large group do not lift the University off the bottom of the Big Ten. The goal of the administration’s “strategic positioning initiative” is to make the University one of the top three public research universities in the United States. Current grad employee pay rates contradict this goal.

Without a union, there is no process by which to regularly secure raises to keep up with the cost of living. While some departments have been generous and bumped up pay rates over the years, these increases are not legally protected and might be changed at any time. The last two times all graduate employees received across-the-board wage and benefit increases were in 1991 and 1999, respectively. Interestingly, these were the last two times there were efforts to organize a union for graduate employees. Even these raises have been jeopardized by significant fee increases, added costs that graduate employees have been unable to address without a union.

For these and many other reasons I am going to the polls and voting for the union. Graduate employees at five Big Ten universities have a union, and they make an average of $1,600 more in take-home pay per year than we do.

I will be proud to vote for the union on behalf of our whole University community. The improvements in wages and benefits will improve our quality of life, research and teaching; which will pave a path toward a stronger, better University.

Pakou Hang is a University research assistant. Please send comments to [email protected]