GASO has no members, is not an organization and has a name that means absolutely nothing.
But a collection of individuals who support this “non-organization” that is labeled under a false acronym emerged in 1998 as the main graduate student-led opposition to the unionization of teaching assistants.
John Gehman GRD ’02 maintains the Web site for the group but emphasized that he cannot speak for GASO or any other “non-member” of the group. Gehman and other opponents of unionization gathered to express their conflicting views with the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, which continues to strive toward its goal of a TA union at Yale.
Gehman doubts that GESO has the support of the simple majority of TAs necessary for unionization, despite GESO’s recent claim that it will achieve a “super-majority” of 70 percent in favor of unionization.
“There’s a lot of money behind GESO and their manipulation of public opinion,” Gehman said. “A lot of people get up there and say they are going to have a majority soon, and they’ve said that every year since I’ve been here.”
Although GESO has begun a massive card drive, Gehman said he doubts its results will reflect the true feelings of graduate students.
“I suspect that a lot of the forms will be filled by people who aren’t all that interested,” Gehman said.
Gehman added that he has heard of stories of GESO members harassing TAs by visiting private residences and interrupting science experiments. In response, disenchanted graduate students circulated two separate petitions, one in molecular cellular and developmental biology and the other in chemistry, asking GESO to reform its recruiting techniques.
“They won’t take no for an answer,” Gehman said. “To reasonably intelligent people, it’s insulting to pretend like you’re having a two-way conversation. They keep asking you.”
GESO chair J. T. Way GRD ’05 said his organization never received any such petition and avoids harassing opponents of unionization.
“I’ve heard rumors of its existence, but we never got a physical petition,” Way said. “We have invited GASO members to our membership meeting and given them access to our microphone. We encourage open debate and we have our members think through the issues.”
Gehman said he enjoyed watching the recent controversy surrounding history professor Paul Kennedy’s e-mail in which Kennedy said he would not teach his popular lecture unless he was assured the TAs would not participate in a grade strike or similar action. GESO filed a complaint with the regional National Labor Relations Board in response to the e-mail.
“It highlights GESO’s problems in so many ways,” Gehman said. “Professionally and academically, they want the opportunity to TA for Dr. Kennedy’s popular history class, which wouldn’t be so popular if it was interrupted mid-semester by graduate students striking for the benefit of higher education. Obviously, they can’t have it both ways.”
Way said he does not believe that GASO’s opposition has hindered the movement to unionize.
“I often refer people when I’m organizing to the GASO Web site because we want informed members who have really thought through all the issues,” Way said.