Let the vote begin.
On Labor Day 2015, a bunch of Penn State grad students gathered on the Old Main lawn for a picnic. The food wasn’t the point. The start of a card campaign — an opening volley in the battle for unionization — was.
Now a state agency has said the university’s graduate students can move on to the next step, taking an actual vote on whether students who also receive compensation and perform services can band together in a bargaining unit.
The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ruled on Friday that graduate assistants are permitted to unionize under the Pennsylvania Employee Relations Act.
“We’re ecstatic that the PLRB has ordered an election,” said Coalition for Graduate Employees media officer Katie Warczak in a press release. “We’re looking forward to exercising our right to vote, and we’re confident that it’s a vote we’ll win.”
The decision came five months after a September 2017 hearing, where Penn State and the pro-union students argued their positions.
“Penn State’s administrators spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to deny us this vote,” said CGE co-president Jerome Clarke. “Ultimately, it didn’t matter. We are workers and today the PLRB affirmed that status.”
The PLRB hearing examiner decided graduate students participating in graduate assistantships or traineeships will be able to participate in a vote.
An election date has not been set, but will be forthcoming, the CGE said.
The university said it will prepare a list of eligible voters based on their appointments in the current semester, but the election will be conducted by the PLRB.
Penn State “will continue to follow the PLRB process; however, we are disappointed by the decision and are evaluating all our options going forward,” according to a statement.
“It is important to note that results of any election will be determined by the majority of those who vote, not by the majority of graduate students. Penn State encourages all eligible students to vote and make their voices heard when the election occurs,” the university said.
Fellow state-related university Temple already has a graduate student union.