I am disappointed to see how Penn State’s leaders have come out so strongly in opposition to even the possibility of a graduate union.
The university has tried to overturn the previous labor board ruling allowing graduate assistants the right to unionize. And, President Eric Barron has claimed that graduate unionization threatens the status of Penn State.
But that is certainly not true in my experience. I am on the faculty at Penn State. I have been graduate director of my department and also served as its head for five years.
I am in close contact with my colleagues at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan, both of which already have graduate assistant unions. We compete with those top-quality flagship state universities for graduate students, resources and reputation. I can say from direct experience, their graduate employee unions have not weakened them in that competition. On the other hand, the unions have provided their graduate student employees a needed collective voice, especially in their access to health care and other benefits.
The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board is holding hearings on campus beginning Tuesday. Let me encourage the Centre Daily Times to publicize and cover those hearings so that both the town and gown communities can follow this important issue.
John D. McCarthy, Zion
John D. McCarthy is a distinguished professor of sociology and faculty adviser to the Penn State Coalition of Graduate Student Employees.