GESO to announce majority support

GESO members will announce that they have the support of a majority of graduate students during a rally for Yale’s unions tomorrow, GESO members and union leaders said.

GESO members said they had received union cards signed by a majority of graduate students. Though they said the exact numbers were uncertain, one GESO organizer said the group was 20 cards short of a majority as of Monday morning and were still counting. Another GESO member said the group had a majority of nearly 1,250 signed cards as of Monday evening.

The declaration of a majority comes as the Graduate Employees and Students Organization continues its 12-year effort to form a recognized graduate student union.

GESO organizer Citlali Cortes-Montano FES ’02 said she hoped the demonstration of GESO’s support would lead to recognition for the longtime fledgling union.

“This is a historical moment that’s going to define how things are going to happen in the future,” Cortes-Montano said.

In advance of the rally, GESO leaders plan to deliver a letter to Yale President Richard Levin’s office this morning, asking Levin to agree to sit down with the group and determine a way to address unionization by recognizing an election or agreeing to card-count neutrality, GESO Chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said.

Levin was out of town yesterday night, and will not return until this afternoon.

Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield said she was not sure what the cards were meant to represent, and said that recognition of a union required more than just signed cards.

“It’s difficult to know what it is that they’re presenting right now,” Hockfield said. “They have been advocating the acceptance of cards for the recognition of a union, and the position of this administration has been that there is an established method for union recognition which is not simply through signed cards.”

Wednesday’s rally is intended to promote the idea of a new partnership between Yale’s unions — which include the recognized locals 34 and 35, GESO, and hospital workers trying to form a union — and the University, union spokeswoman Deborah Chernoff said. Chernoff added that GESO’s announcement of the extent of its support reflects a continued commitment to the idea of graduate students being able to unionize.

In the past, GESO has asked administrators to accept a card-count neutrality agreement, under which University leaders would agree to speak neither for nor against unionization and recognize GESO as a union if a majority of graduate students turn in signed union cards.

University administrators have previously said it is unclear how strong the group’s support is among graduate students, and challenged GESO leaders to hold a National Labor Relations Board election to establish the extent of support for a union.

To hold an NLRB election, the group would have to submit signed cards from 30 percent of graduate students, and the union would be recognized if a majority of graduate students voted in favor of unionization in a secret ballot election.

Though they said they have more than enough signed cards to file for an NLRB election, GESO members said the group would not ask for an election. In the past, GESO leaders have expressed concern about the NLRB election process, saying it would allow the University to appeal the results of any election and potentially delay the recognition of a union.

Seth said GESO members would declare that they have the support of an “overwhelming” number of graduate students, and reiterate demands for the University to agree to negotiate with the group over how to achieve formal recognition. She added that they would likely not mention specific numbers at the rally.

Jesse Couenhoven GRD ’04 said discussion of unionization in recent years has focused on University doubts about whether GESO had the support of a substantial number of graduate students. With signatures from what they say is a majority, Couenhoven said, GESO members hoped to shift the debate to the actual issue of how to achieve recognition for the group.

“Part of what we want to say is that maybe graduate students do want a union, so what do you think about that if that’s really true?” Couenhoven said.

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