Graduate employees commend administration behavior as state labor board confirms majority support
HARTFORD, Conn. — University of Connecticut (UConn) graduate student employees won union recognition today after the State Board of Labor Relations (SBLR) verified that a super majority of the workers signed cards authorizing the Graduate Employee Union/United Auto Workers (GEU-UAW) to represent them in collective bargaining.
In a historic agreement with GEU-UAW last week, the UConn administration committed to respect graduate employees’ right to organize and bargain collectively, to refrain from campaigning against unionization, and to recognize the union based on the state’s process for majority recognition.
“We took an exciting step forward today, which we believe will not only help us improve our conditions but will also contribute to making UConn a better institution,” said Cera Fisher, a doctoral student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology who works as a research and teaching assistant. “We commend the administration and the Board of Trustees for allowing us to make our own choice, and hope that this good-faith spirit continues into bargaining for our first contract.”
Graduate employees play a critical role in providing quality education to thousands of students and carrying out cutting-edge research projects that help bring more than $150 million in grant revenue each year, both of which contribute to UConn’s growing reputation as an academic powerhouse.
Elected officials from across the state weighed in on the issue recently. “We urge UConn administration to continue to remain neutral, refrain from any delay tactics and allow the process to move forward quickly under the rules and practices of the State labor board,” wrote numerous statewide constitutional officers and more than 70 state legislators in recent letters to the administration. The entire Connecticut Congressional delegation, wrote a similar letter recently.
The UConn workers join graduate employees at more than 60 union-represented university campuses across the U.S. UConn has a highly unionized workforce; with approximately 85 percent of UConn’s other employees also represented by unions.
“We are witnessing renewed energy among teaching assistants and research assistants organizing unions nationwide: graduate employees at New York University voted overwhelmingly to unionize recently and now, at UConn we have seen an inspiring, grassroots campaign by graduate employees to establish their union,” said UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner, whose region includes Connecticut. “I’m confident these workers will approach contract negotiations with the same kind of focus that won recognition of their union at UConn.”
“We commend UConn for respecting the rights of its workers to organize and bargain collectively,” said UAW President Bob King. “And we applaud the Connecticut Congressional delegation for standing with workers. On behalf of all of the academic employees in the UAW, we sincerely welcome these newest UAW members,” King added.
The UAW represents over 45,000 academic employees across the country, including more than 25,000 graduate employees at the University of Massachusetts, New York University, University of Washington, University of California and California State University.
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