Today was the 11th day of our NLRB hearings where Penn is trying everything it can to delay our election long enough to give Donald Trump a chance to take away our right to unionize. However, it was only the second day of testimony from graduate student workers. Up today were grad witnesses Jackie Bannon from Nursing, Kelly Karch from BGS, and Miranda Weinberg from GSE and Anthropology.
There were many highlights from today, including my colleague Kelly’s testimony. She is a fellow Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics (BMB) student. I heard from Kelly about her experience testifying. She described her work as a research assistant and TA, which for her included developing exams, leading recitation sections, and even lecturing on topics where she was more knowledgeable than the professor teaching the class. Not only did Penn’s lawyers claim that none of these roles count as work, they also suggested that Kelly was dishonest about her motivation for TAing on departmental forms she has filled out. They attacked her integrity as she testified under oath. It was very frustrating for me to hear about how Penn lawyers repeatedly asked leading questions to attempt to put words in her mouth rather than accept her honest testimony about her experiences.
Later, Miranda Weinberg testified that she works for 20 hours a week as an RA in GSE, and she was the instructor of record in a GSE class during her 5th year. Penn’s lawyers (seven of them present in the hearing room at one point!) tried to argue that she did this work strictly for the purpose of furthering her own education. This was despite the fact that she repeatedly testified that she needed to do this work to support herself financially. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to say the same thing over and over, and for the lawyers to refuse to hear your answer.
No matter how long Penn tries to stall, we are confident in our ability to win an election because we have a positive vision for Penn. This vision includes making sure that everyone at Penn gets health, dental, and vision care, support for themselves and family members, and a contract laying out the rights and obligations of graduate student workers and the University of Pennsylvania.
If you support the vision of a Penn where grads have a real voice in our work lives, please join us in signing the public pledge to vote YES for GET-UP in the upcoming election. If you are worried about being public in your support, consider that I was one of the 14 original signers of our constitution, have been working on this campaign for more than a year, have expressed my support publicly in the DP, and I have still managed to get permission to write my dissertation and secure a post-doctoral position for after I graduate. I believe in democracy in the workplace, and I think publicly standing up for that belief is an important step towards achieving it.
(Photo above is of GET-UP members at my wedding a few weeks ago.)