Members of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization asked for a secret ballot election Sunday to determine whether Yale graduate students can form a union.
Under the terms GESO proposed in a letter to Yale President Richard Levin, Yale officials would agree not to appeal the results of the election. The letter asks Levin to sit down with GESO representatives to negotiate a “made at Yale” process to gauge the level of support among graduate students for unionization. But Yale leaders said GESO should seek an election with the National Labor Relations Board instead of through the University.
GESO has been trying to organize teaching and research assistants for over a decade but has never before requested a formal election. University officials have maintained that graduate students are not employees and cannot form a union.
In the past, University officials have asked GESO to request a NLRB election but have said they would appeal the results. For this reason, GESO members said they want to negotiate a process specific to Yale that the administration would recognize, Seth said.
GESO chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said GESO members would like to have an election as soon as possible.
“Coming off all of our requests for a fair process of recognition, we are really committed to having an election if that’s what it takes to show that we have majority support,” she said.
Yale spokesman Tom Conroy called Sunday’s letter a “restatement of a long-standing request.”
“A prospective union can always petition the NLRB for an election,” he said. “But it’s not the University’s policy to negotiate recognition with a prospective union.”
Previously, GESO leaders have said said they want to be recognized through a card-count neutrality agreement, under which Yale officials would agree not to make any statements regarding unionization and would recognize a graduate student union if over half of the bargaining unit signed union cards.
Graduate students at Brown and Columbia universities and the University of Pennsylvania have held NLRB elections but the ballots have been impounded because the universities appealed the rulings allowing TAs to unionize. Cornell University graduate students resoundingly defeated a resolution to unionize last October.
Some GESO members participated in a walkout during the first week of March with members of locals 34 and 35 and unionized Yale-New Haven Hospital workers. During the “intellectual strike,” striking GESO members did not hold sections, attend classes, conduct research or enter any Yale facilities.
Yale and locals 34 and 35, have been negotiating new contracts for nearly 4,000 workers since last February. GESO issues are not legally connected with union contracts, but the dispute over recognition for GESO has been a major stumbling block in this round of talks.