The Graduate Employees and Students Organization will hold a secret ballot vote April 30 to determine whether teaching and research assistants support unionization, GESO leaders said Monday.
The vote, which will be supervised by the League of Women Voters, will be held at Dwight Hall from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on April 30. About 2,100 graduate students will be eligible to vote as part of the potential bargaining unit, GESO chairwoman Anita Seth GRD ’05 said. Yale officials said they will not recognize the results of the vote and urged GESO members to seek a National Labor Relations Board election if they wish to form a union.
The announcement followed a letter GESO members sent to Yale President Richard Levin April 13 asking him to negotiate a tailor-made process to measure the level of support for a graduate student union. Levin responded Monday, urging GESO to seek an election through the NLRB instead of through the University.
Seth said GESO has not sought an NLRB election because Yale administrators have said they would appeal the results.
“The vote will clearly show the majority support that GESO has on this campus,” Seth said. “I think the majority of graduate students on campus believe that graduate students have a democratic right to hold an election.”
Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said GESO members can go ahead with the election but that there is no basis on which the results will be considered valid.
“This is just like if you got a group of friends together and said ‘Hey, we should have an election,’” Klasky said. “If they were so confident that they were going to win, why wouldn’t they use the NLRB process?”
GESO members delivered a petition containing 1,075 graduate students’ signatures to Levin Monday, asking him to work out a “mutually acceptable process” to assess whether a majority of graduate students support unionization.
GESO has been trying to organize graduate student teaching and research assistants for over a decade but had not requested an election before last week. Yale officials have maintained that graduate students are not employees and cannot form a union.
GESO members held a League of Women Voters election in 1995 but the University did not recognize the non-binding election’s results. The election was one of the factors that led to GESO’s failed 1995-96 grade strike.
Not all GESO members said they support all of GESO’s organizing efforts.
GESO member Erik Cheries GRD ’07 said there has been tension in the psychology department in the last two weeks over whether GESO organizers can recruit members by going to graduate students’ homes.
“They are unwilling to say that they won’t stop coming to our houses because they think it’s too important of a recruiting strategy,” Cheries said.
Some graduate students participated in a five-day strike during the first week of March with members of locals 34 and 35 and unionized Yale-New Haven Hospital Workers. Recognition for GESO has been a major issue of contention in contract talks between Yale and locals 34 and 35, which began last February.
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 that would allow teaching and research assistants to unionize. Cornell University graduate students defeated a referendum on unionization last October.
New York University is currently the only private university with a TA union.