UMN grad students contacting state, Kaler about unionization vote

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.

  • Lynn

    Just to clarify, us graduate student workers for sure prefer a JOINT PETITION with the University. That is our first choice. An election would be our second choice.
    Why? Well first off the joint petition is fast. Prez Kaler can go in with us on forming a union and we could start bargaining over a contract right away! Plus a joint petition is actually way more democratic because over half of all grad workers here signed a union card saying they want a union. If we go to an election it is going to take time and energy away from our union and it will end up being LESS democratic because the only people who will have a say will be the people who come out to vote.
    Through a joint petition every single person who signed a card saying they want a union will be participating in the union formation.
    So I really hope Prez Kaler will sign this joint petition with us to get this union rocking!
    Union Yes!

    • MinnGrad

      It was sure nice that the union entered labs and got signatures from all of the international students telling them that this would reduce their fees.  No one asked my opinion or asked me to sign a card.  But then again, I speak english.