A new column on the Collegian:
A new column on the Collegian:
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
The time has finally come! On February 17th, the Coalition of Graduate Employees (CGE) and the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) will gather on the steps of Old Main to formally announce our partnership, as well as declare the beginning of our card drive! This is the first step in petitioning the university to recognize a graduate employee union.
By the stipulations of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Law, we need to collect authorization cards from at least 30% of all Graduate Employees that declare "yes, we want to have a vote about a union" in order to initiate the vote (we hope at least 60% will sign). This is our first step towards forming a union, and we need EVERY ONE OF YOU who supports this to be out there.
We will begin our rally event at 12:00 PM, on the Old Main steps. Graduate students will share their concerns and goals through unionization; PSEA speakers will share their experiences with organizing; faculty supporters will be present to offer their support. We will have cards on-site, for those of you who are ready to sign and join a growing wave of graduate students working together to make their university a better place.
Free coffee, hot chocolate, and tea will be provided. Come make history with us.
-Coalition of Graduate Employees
We are canvassing all grad student workers on whether they support affiliating with Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). If we agree to affiliate with PSEA, we would work with them to gather signatures for the card drive and petition for an election. Then if enough graduate student workers agree to unionize during the card drive, we will begin negotiations with the university with the support of PSEA. After meeting several times with the PSEA, we believe they would be a strong ally for the CGE and graduate students at Penn State more broadly. Below we briefly explain affiliation and the relevant information about PSEA. Please read these comments and then click here to vote. Only PSU graduate student workers that are currently employed by Penn State should participate.
Affiliating: Most unions affiliate with a larger national organization that provides direct legal and organizing support as well as a place for solidarity. The majority, but not all, of graduate unions are affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW) or the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). For example, University of Iowa grads are affiliated with United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
Affiliation does not mean that the PSEA or the National Education Association (NEA) controls our union. The national affiliate provides support and connects unions together to become stronger. PSEA would provide legal support, support with initial organizing, and strong national advocacy on behalf of all graduate workers. From PSEA’s perspective, they expect us to stand in solidarity with their other members (teachers, educators, and administrators in Pennsylvania), and part of our dues (1% to 2.5% of the average stipend) would go to further their work.
PSEA: Below is the information that is most relevant to making a decision about PSEA.
Local Presence: The PSEA represents teachers and staff in the State College school districts. They have a local office in State College, as well as an active undergraduate club.
Interest: Members of the CGE have met with PSEA members several times and PSEA have always been engaged in trying to help us. They have provided information and are clearly informed about the needs and position of graduate student workers.
Dues: They would expect dues at the $16 to $33 per month (1% to 2.5% of the average stipend). More importantly, no dues would be collected until AFTER we sign a contract with Pennsylvania State. Graduate employees would of course be the ones voting on approval of any contract.
Experience: PSEA has not currently organized graduate employees, but the national NEA is actively supporting several graduate union pushes now. In addition, PSEA represents faculty at several colleges in Pennsylvania.
On Friday two CGE members, Shakil Rabbi and Kevin Reuning, were guests on The Freq's Morning Mix Tape with Jason Crane. We talked about what grad unions are, what they do, and answered a few questions. Take a listen to it below and share:
We are currently taking nominees for co-leadership position. The co-leaders will be the face of the CGE. Although they will not be the sole point of contact for it they will be the first ones in charge of talking with media or at events. As such whatever graduate student is selected must be unafraid with speaking about the issues of graduate students, especially how diverse these issues are. We hope that the leadership will reflect the diversty of gender, race, and colleges that the CGE represents. To nominate yourself or someone else please email Kevin.Reuning@gmail.com
First discussion point: How do we formalize decision making to ensure that we can make decisions when necessary?
We are going to create two committees to deal with different efforts: media and organizing.
Media: will build contacts with media, create press releases and other related documents, control the website, and do any necessary social media.
Organizing: will be in charge of canvassing, flyering, tabling, as well as outreach to other groups and individuals.
Those in attendance discussed their personal preferences for what group to work with. We nominated two individuals to be the contact point for the initial committee:
Also discussed having a face of the organization. Decided to create two co-leaders who would help to keep things organized but also be the outward face of the organization.
We found it best that we have one woman and one man.
Darwin and Robert were nominated, but we will take more nominations now before we vote. Email Kevin.Reuning@gmail.com with nominations.
How to talk about unions:
We did not spend a lot of time on this as members of the Labor and Employee Relations dept weren’t available to attend. We did discuss the need of holding a training ASAP.
The grad school is holding townhalls. We need to be involved in them.
There are different townhalls for different colleges. As of now we know:
College of Ag – Oct 5th 5:30
College of Liberal Arts – Oct 6th 5:30
Eberly College of Science – Oct 7th 5:30
We want to table outside of the event with information about the union.
We need to discuss what questions should be the focus of our asks.
Organizing committee should take over planning this.
Jeffrey M – Has been talking with American Association of University Professors (AAUP) about them supporting us. They have offered to sign a letter of support.
We have the opportunity to have a running column in the Collegian. Need to finalize what our first letter should be (Media).
We will be holding an organizing meeting to discuss our plans for the next few weeks and beyond. It will be at 5:30 on 9/21 in Websters. Please come and share your thoughts and ideas. We will be positing an agenda soon, for now check out our facebook event.
Yesterday's Labor Day Luncheon was a great success with 80 some graduate students coming out to talk about how they can make Penn State better. Thanks to Food Not Bombs we didn't even run out of food. We will have some more thoughts on the event and the plans for the future soon but we want to highlight the two articles that covered yesterday's event. The Daily Collegian had some great indepth coverage:
Penn State graduate students met on Labor Day in front of Old Main to discuss unionization at the Coalition of Graduate Employees’ luncheon.
Pamphlets were handed out to those who attended the CGE’s Labor Day Luncheon for Unionization with information about forming the coalition’s first union.
CGE is a Penn State graduate employee organization working to create a union in order to be a part of the university’s decision-making process.
“A union would never determine who got which jobs or constrain the university to pay everyone the same. It would, however, determine that everyone gets paid enough,” Robert Birdwell (graduate-English) said. “A union would not prevent you from working overtime but it would say that you have to get paid for overtime.”
The Centre Daily Times also covered the event, although the coverage did not go as in-depth as we hope future coverage will be. It is critical for this conversation to be public, and hopefully the media will ensure that everyone is informed about our options.
The Coalition of Graduate Employees at Penn State is hosting a Labor Day luncheon at noon (September 7, 12PM) in front of Old Main for all graduate employees, families, and allies to discuss how a graduate employee union might better our position at Penn State.
At this luncheon, the CGE invites all graduate students and their friends, families and allies, to meet for a public conversation over graduate employee unionization – its benefits, costs, risks, and opportunities. Given that Labor Day marks a national day of recognition of the labor done by workers, the CGE would like to celebrate the occasion by discussing graduate employee welfare, workload and wages. This conversation is all more relevant since this public holiday will actually be another day at the office for many graduate students.
Given the changes over the last year in graduate employees benefits, the stagnation of graduate stipends, and the lack of transparency in university decision-making, graduate students at Pennsylvania State University have begun to explore our options in strengthening our role in decision making processes at Penn State. What started as only a handful of students has slowly grown, and we have put together this website to open the discussion about what a graduate student union would mean at Penn State.
As of now we are committed to broadening the participation of graduate students at Penn State. We hope that you will join us in this process by being either actively involved or talking to your friends and colleagues about the role of graduate students here at Penn State.