The Philadelphia NLRB released an election order Tuesday night, December 19th, 2017. This is an exciting development for graduate student workers at Penn: it affirms the precedent of the Columbia decision (364 NLRB No. 90 (2016)) that established grads as students and workers, and Penn’s status as both educator and employer.
The timing of the order, however, is unfortunate. GET-UP filed for an election on May 30, only to have Penn draw out weeks of hearings in which their lawyers argued that grads didn’t have jobs, but “educational pursuits.” Penn’s litigation of grads’ right to a democratic say in their working conditions, and the Trump appointees to the NLRB, meant that instead of a swift election, grads have waited 203 days, and counting, to exercise our democratic rights.
With winter break upon us and the fall semester over, GET-UP is reaching out to our membership about the election order. With a hostile national environment for labor and for graduate students – witness the recent effort by the House GOP to tax graduate student tuition waivers as income – we recognize that this is a difficult time to organize, and we’re strategizing around those political facts. We want to be sure our organization and our next steps are member-driven and based on the principles of our union, which aims to improve our working conditions, enrich our academic experience, and transform the university into a more democratic workplace for the benefit of the wider community.
We call on Penn to respect the democratic voice of its graduate students. Other universities have taken multiple paths: Columbia has fought its grad employee union tooth and nail, only to be met with union certification this week from the NLRB. Brandeis and Tufts have accepted election results and begun negotiating with their unions. NYU’s graduate students have a legally binding contract that provided dramatic improvements in their working conditions and wages. Penn should allow for the democratic process to move forward and not appeal the regional director’s decision and election order.