UMN grad students contacting state, Kaler about unionization vote

UMN-winter 007

The group of graduate students trying to organize at the University of Minnesota has been working today to bring about a student vote on whether to unionize.

It’s taking a two-pronged approach now that a majority of the U’s 4,500 graduate assistants have signed union-authorization cards, spokesman Scott Thaller told me.

First, the group is asking the state Bureau of Mediation Services to schedule a union election. (Thaller said the group needed cards from 30 percent of the students to petition the bureau.)

Second, Thaller also said he and a rep from United Auto Workers, which is helping the students organize, hand-delivered a letter to President Eric Kaler early this morning. The letter asks him to sign a joint petition in recognition of the union. If Kaler signed, Thaller said, the students would not need an election. (A majority of student signers was required for a joint petition, the student said.)

Kaler was friendly and professional and “said he’d be in touch,” Thaller told me. “It was kind of him to come out and talk to me face to face and take the letter.”

The letter was signed by several dozen graduate students. Thaller didn’t know offhand, however, exactly how many students had signed the union-authorization cards.

Thaller said that based on past grad-student unionization campaigns at the U, students have been able to hold a vote within two to three months of petitioning the bureau.

I’m putting a call in to Kaler’s office.