BlogNews and Updates

Demystifying Pennsylvania Graduate Union Legislation

Graduate employee unions are not new to the state of Pennsylvania. The path to graduate unionization, as cleared by Temple University’s legal precedent in 2000, is a democratic one. Here, we will demystify what that process should look like and what has changed since the university decided to block that path.

The process:

  • A group of interested graduate employees (CGE in this case) collects cards with signatures from other graduate employees showing interest in holding a vote for a union.

  • CGE submits those cards to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB), who confirms the card count.

  • The PLRB holds a conference call with the organizing graduate body and the university to identify who will be in the union.

  • If both parties are in agreement, it moves on to an election. If there is a disagreement, it goes to a hearing in front of the PLRB.


As many of you may know, CGE completed the card collection in February and filed with PLRB for a vote. The conference call was held on April 6th. During this call, the university challenged the fact that we are employees, thus challenging our right to form a union. The next step will be a hearing at the PLRB. When Temple University took the matter to the PLRB in 2000, the board ruled unequivocally that “graduate assistants are ‘employees’ […] and may properly exercise collective bargaining rights in relation to wages, hours and working conditions.” After the PLRB ruled in their favor, Temple graduate employees voted 94% to 6% in favor of unionization. We anticipate that this precedent will work in our favor.

We are frustrated that the university is delaying the process. We hoped that the many cards demonstrating graduate employee interest in a democratic vote would be enough to show the university that we can — and should — decide for ourselves whether a union is right for graduate employees at Penn State. In accordance with our values of openness and solidarity, we at CGE will continue respecting our fellow graduate employees’ ability to make decisions by demystifying the legal process and providing resources for learning about unionization.

If you have any further questions, please join us at our open meeting on Tuesday, April 11th at 6PM in the Municipal building (room 220) or at our coffee hours on Wednesday, April 18th from 3-6 at Websters. More information about these events can be found here and on our facebook page.