What are the issues here?
Here are the highlights of today’s
University of Minnesota grad-student unionization forum as I tweeted them.
It’s the fourth time grad students are trying to organize, the last time being in 2005.
But it’s the first time they’ve ran a campaign into a second year, Aldarondo said, as well as the first to be affiliated with the United Auto Workers.
Aldarondo says represents more academic student employees than any other union in the country, and told me:
“They have a proven track record of winning campaigns just like this one.”
I’ll be writing more about this later, but for now here are the tweets. It’s better to read them from the bottom up.
What to do?
The panelists were graduate students Charlie Billington, Shankar Krishnan and Cecilia Aldarando, and professors Jerry Cohen and Richard McGehee, as well as state Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park).
Barb Kucera, director of the Labor Education Service at the Carlson School of Management, was the moderator.
prof Cohen: Grad students will be the ones bargaining. Not some outsider. # UMN grad student Aldarondo: Argument of higher pay = worse-off department is a red herring. Doesn’t happen. No evidence of it in the U.S. # UMN grad student Krishman: We don’t get untenable pay raises. We bargain in good faith. # UMN grad student Billington: Union might not include (all?) fellows. # UMN employee: We clerical unions organized. Best decision we ever made. We’re mostly women, and women are socialized not to ask for more. # UMN No students really critical of union, judging from questions. Not much said about the nuts and bolts of collective bargaining. prof McGehee: Not much exp., but in WI it’s seen as positive force. # UMN grad asst at Humphrey: Thoughts on collective bargaining at universities? # UMN Aldarondo: Check out our Web site and see what contracts have been bargained at other schools. # UMN grad student Billington: I’ve seen a contract that brought up pay by 18% with diverse pay levels. # UMN Rep. Nelson: That’s a classic tactic used to buy people off. prof Cohen: Union won’t “destroy” well-thought-out wage system. There is none. # UMN prof Cohen: Setting of wages at U is fairly arbitrary. No careful design. Q is: You want to be part of that process, make it logical? # UMN grad stuent Aldarondo: This dangling of a wage-improvement carrot is a classic tactic. But carrot has no guarantee. # UMN grad student panelists: Union isn’t here to flatten wages. Not possible. Different funding sources. # UMN grad student Billington: Common technique — but other contracts show everyone is actually better off in a union. # UMN audience member: Admin trying to create divide btwn students in sciences and humanities by saying we’d all be paid same. Ur strategy? # UMN prof McGehee: My U contacts in Wisconsin tie lower class sizes with union contract. # UMN prof Cohen: Faculty have sympathy for you in that issue. We have little input into that, though we see how hard TAs work. # UMN grad student Billington: Diversity of departments, wkg conds can be built into contract(s). # UMN grad student Aldarondo: I agree. Union could help in the class-size issues. # UMN grad student: We got memo that class size going up 25% with no extra pay. Can a union help us with this? Grad student Krishnan: Yes. # UMN int’l grad student: When I saw memo on intimidation, I called int’l student office. Told them it was anti-union, not just info. # UMN prof Cohen: Just read what happened in U.S. before and after union movement to see the results for workers. # UMN prof Cohen: Union is like democracy. Not the perfect form of gov’t. But it’s the best one out there. # UMN grad stuent Aldarondo: Some have tried to portray a diff in how int’l students will be treated in union. Not true. # UMN grad stuent Aldarondo: This is a worker’s union, and there’s no differentiation between int’l and domestic students. # UMN Rep. Nelson: True, unions have pulled some bad moves. But not many. This anti-union propaganda happens all the time during or attempts. Rep. Nelson: This sort of thing happens. Mgt often tries to portray unions as evil things. # UMN grad student in aerospace: I hear of a memo about union intimidating students to join. Prof. McGehee: I got that memo. I threw it away. # UMN State Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL): I was in union. Put me on even level w/employer, gave me democ. in workplace. prof McGehee: Happy students, happy faculty. Union also helps in recruitment of grad students. # UMN Prof. McGehee: I hear a union would ruin wonderful rel’p btwn faculty and grad students. Wrong. It helps. Students happier. # UMN grad student Krishnan: U can impart liberal democ. values to intern’l students through union. # UMN prof Cohen: No real ombudsman program to help grad students, esp. in cases of lapses of ethical behavior on part of profs. # UMN prof Cohen: Reducing grad student tuition hasn’t been addressed, nor have health care costs. (Faculty more protected.) # UMN grad student Billington: W/o union, U unilaterally decides terms and conditions. Union gives us democratic say. # UMN grad student Aldarondo: W/o grad student labor, U couldn’t fulfill its mission. # UMN Moderator says # UMN declined to attend forum, Rep.Ellison couldn’t make it. # PrezKaler
About the blogger
Alex Friedrich reports on higher education issues for MPR News. Among the stories he has covered: the fall of the Berlin Wall, aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis, 2003 Moscow suicide bombing and 2004 presidential elections in the Republic of Georgia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s in European political economy from the London School of Economics.