Law prevented consideration of GESO

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

Unlike in 2003, when Yale labor unions Locals 34 and 35 demanded that the Graduate Employee Student Organization be recognized by the University, union officials did not mention GESO in this year’s contract discussions.

Although Locals 34 and 35 officials’ demand for GESO recognition helped bring the 2002 negotiations to a 19-month crawl, two union members said no such demand was made during this year’s contract discussions. Because it is now against federal labor law for private school graduate students to unionize, the members explained, revisiting GESO’s status in this year’s discussions would have proved fruitless.

Still, despite not being included in this round of negotiations, graduate students remain eager to once again be recognized as a union.

In July 2004, about three years after Brown University graduate students attempted to achieve collective bargaining rights under the United Auto Workers union, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that all private school graduate students are forbidden from unionizing.

Last year, the chairmen of their respective Congressional education and labor committees — Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) — each introduced legislation in Congress that would give graduate students at private universities the right to unionize. But the Senate and House bills never made it to a vote; they both died in committee.

Miller reintroduced the bill, which is called the Teaching and Research Assistant Collective Bargaining Rights Act, to the House of Representatives last month. And Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, introduced the same bill in the U.S. Senate last Thursday; Kennedy has co-sponsored the legislation. Both the Senate and House versions have been referred to their respective committees.

“We should restore bargaining rights to these hard-working individuals who were unfairly denied those rights by the [former President George W.] Bush [’68] National Labor Relations Board so they can, if they choose … band together and negotiate for better working conditions,” House Education and Labor Committee Press Secretary Aaron Albright wrote in an e-mail Monday.

To be sure, pushing for a student union is not a top priority for the union officials given the nation’s faltering economy; four union officials and members said over the weekend that the primary focus was job security.

During the 2002-2003 union contract negotiations, union officials pushed for University recognition of GESO because, as they said at the time, the move would be beneficial to the two worker unions. University spokesman Tom Conroy said at the time that University officials would not “negotiate matters that are unrelated to contracts of our employees.” In response, some GESO members decided to stage an “intellectual strike” against the University in 2003, walking out of teaching-assistant class sections, ignoring classes and stopping research in solidarity with Locals 34 and 35.

University administrators have declined to comment on this year’s early agreement until April 14, when the two unions will vote on the contract. Yale unions spokesman Evan Cobb GRD ’05 confirmed Sunday that the two unions are scheduled to have meetings that day. Union members interviewed by the News about the discussions spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment on the record.

Currently, GESO members await the opportunity to request recognition by the University, GESO chairwoman Ariana Paulson GRD ’11 has said this semester. If GESO members are given the opportunity by the federal government to unionize and are prevented from doing so by the University, the graduate students may resort to retaliation, including walking out and striking, Paulson said in January.

But for now, Locals 34 and 35 will likely not strike next year over contract negotiations. Over a dozen union members interviewed by the News since Friday have expressed support for the agreement.

Cobb said Sunday that if the contract is approved, the unions would not strike because the no-strike and walk-out language that is often included in union contracts prevents such actions.

GESO staged a rally outside the Hall of Graduate Studies last month to demand that the University listen to the group’s requests, including increased job support and direct communication with administrators.

If the bill passes both houses of Congress and graduate student unionization becomes legal, GESO officials are adamant that they will unionize. But in 2003, with 80 challenge votes, graduate students narrowly voted against GESO, 694 to 651.


  • Anonymous

    "graduate students remain eager to once again be recognized as a union"

    Some do.


  • Alum

    That should be Sherrod Brown '74

  • GASO

    "But in 2003, with 80 challenge votes, graduate students narrowly voted against GESO, 694 to 651."

    This in no way captures what happened. More like "In 2003, in a rigged election that excluded any graduate student not in league with GESO, GESO still managed to lose."


  • GRD

    Oh, dear. This is the same twit who wrote the "GRD students push for GESO" tripe. I gave him the benefit of the doubt last time (i.e., maybe he was just naive), but this second piece pretty much proves he is a commie sympathizer, facts-be-darned.

    GESO has been defeated time and again by students themselves:

    Stop being a mouthpiece for a discredited, unwanted, outside-funded sham organization.


    "…GESO publicity contact Rachel Sulkes [stated] that those up on Science Hill had simply "defined themselves as outside our interests" -- a well-crafted PR term meaning that they disagreed with GESO and were therefore excluded.

    "[Many graduate students reported] the GESO movement had successfully created a "cult-like" environment of intimidation in departments where support for unionization was high. GESO's brazen recruiting techniques and persistent calls, which often violated a "no-contact" list, stopped "barely short of harassment" in the words of one graduate student who wished to remain anonymous.

    "For an organization that claims to represent graduate students, it seems that in reality, GESO represents an underwhelming few."

  • Anonymous

    Everyone manages to forget 2 previous elections GESO won.

    Victor, there is a huge difference between "against federal law" as you put it, and the actual fact that graduate student work is not currently covered by the organizing protections of the National Labor Relations Act.

    Do your homework next time so your biases are less obvious.

  • alum

    ditto to 1 and 3. i was in the humanities and we were all sick of geso's tactics.

  • Recent Alum

    Another pro-GESO "news" article. It always saddens me when a great student newspaper increasingly appears on the way to become like the New York Times.

  • @#5

    #5: what two elections?

    There was 1995, where a majority of "eligible" voters (read: humanities/social sciences ONLY) "approved" of GESO representation (one assumes that most of those voters have since moved on…).

    The other? And *please* don't say you are counting the 2002 "card count" sham!

    Doesn't GESO have some classes to teach or…or…something?

  • Amused

    Congrats, Victor.

    You've angered both sides of the debate.

    Apparently, you've chosen to be "objective." Objectivity is so, like, yesterday's news.

  • Anonymous

    im a recent humanities grad and i remember that 2003 election. it was a joke. geso stacked it to be in their favour. i cant recall the exact set up but it was basically for humanities and social science students. AND GESO STILL LOST IT. THEY LOST A VOTE THEY TRIED TO RIG. why? because humanities and social science students are sick of geso too! nobody wants geso. geso is pointless. i had a great time at yale, intellectually, professionally and otherwise. a downside to my time at yale? putting up with gesos harrasment from showing up your door, calling and emailing you for meetings, making you feel guilty, making you feel like a sell out if you dont agree with them.

    geso get lost!!!

  • Anonymous

    I'm a professional student.
    I'd like to unionize.

    But GESO always says that they "don't have time for" professional students' concern and it's "out of their scope." They don't even BOTHER trying to organize us.

  • been around

    Once again, Locals 34/35 throw the grad students under the bus… It is amazing that supposedly bright Yale grad students fall for the same old scam every time. There is no real overlap of interests of Locals 34/35 and Yale graduate Teaching Fellows. GESO is only to be exploited as needed. But then Charlie Brown never learned about that football either…

  • GRD


    And why shouldn't it? 34/35 folks are lifers; grad students are transients.

    34/35 folks have reached their career limits (generally speaking), and are fighting for security. Grad students are, by definition, bound to *leave* campus, Yale degree in hand, onward and upward.

    34/35 hasn't "thrown grad students under the bus." There *is* no bus! (Excepting maybe the Green Turtle or Magic Bus of the GESO kool-aid kidz).

    The grad school prize (the degree) would be worth even an atrocious experience. But weirdly, compared with grad students at most--if not all--other schools, my experience is, at worst, equal; at best, far superior.

    Top faculty, oodles of grant money, double the stipend, lots of ancillary bennies, and a leg up in the marketplace. Really: I have *nothing* to complain about (other than GESO constantly trying to sh*t the bed).

    Oooph. Enought. Think I'll head to the GPSCY for something to help me reflect on how lucky I am.

    Thanks Yale!

  • @#11

    #11. Just wondering: why?

    What benefits do you perceive from student unionization at Yale (esp. in the professional schools and/or in contrast with GSA or GPSS)?

    Not trying to lead you, but do you have some context (e.g., are you a non-US student)?

  • yipes

    "Still, despite not being included in this round of negotiations,

    [the odd hangers-on and washed up dissertation drop-outs hired on to remain organizers despite completely losing the limited groundswell they achieved in 2003, and some, mostly those who don't remember he battles five years ago, …]

    graduate students remain eager to once again be recognized as a union."