The Coalition of Graduate Employees (CGE) has been a long time in the making. For years, Penn State graduate employees have faced problems. After a unilateral decision was made about our health care benefits about four years go, graduate employees decided that working together was the only way to fix the challenges in our community. This movement has always been by graduate employees, and for graduate employees.
Penn State’s administrators know this, but they claim otherwise. Since we’ve begun this organizing campaign, the Graduate School at Penn State has released two memos to faculty, instructing them how to talk to graduate employees about unionization (problems with the memo itself have already been discussed in other venues and edited by us to correct misinformation).
The university’s letter — undoubtedly written by a very expensive consultant paid for what’s euphemistically termed “union avoidance” — starts out with a lie, claiming that “there is currently a campaign underway by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) to unionize graduate student assistants here at Penn State.” This isn’t true. PSEA, a union committed to protecting educators across our state, has provided help at CGE’s direction. Our campaign has always been member-led, with graduate employees leading the way.
What they don't want faculty, staff, and members of our community to know is that this campaign is led by graduate employees because we know we need to work together to fix what the administration won't. By trying to portray this as an outside organization, they're deliberately stoking fears of additional bureaucracy or outside interference.
But it's not true, and it's a standard anti-union tactic. What they don't want you to know is that what we're proposing is common across the United States, in some of the best universities in the country. All graduate employees want is the chance to come together and bargain as equals with administration for the betterment of our community.
That’s scary to them; they don't want to lose power over their employees, whether they're faculty, staff, or graduate employees. As long as they're afraid of losing their power, they'll keep up their campaign of "alternative facts.”
It’s evident with just a brief look at our photos, or the people in attendance at our events, who CGE is. The Penn State administration doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth about CGE: this is our union.