A group of graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania began hearings with administrators Friday in response to a petition filed last month requesting a union election.
If the regional National Labor Relations Board rules in favor of Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania, the group trying to form a union, Penn would become the third private university in the country to hold a union election, and the second in the Ivy League.
New York University and Brown have had elections, and NYU currently has the only recognized union.
Columbia TAs have also filed to hold an election, but the regional NLRB director has not yet ruled.
Ed Webb, a spokesman for GET-UP, said recent NLRB decisions allowing TAs at NYU and Brown the right to unionize suggested a favorable outcome for a union.
“The precedent recently with NYU and Brown is in our favor but that doesn’t mean the administration will roll over,” said Ed Webb, a second year graduate student and GET-UP spokesman. “They will fight it — They don’t seem to recognize it’s possible to be both students and employees.”
Webb added that GET-UP will try to form a separate bargaining unit for research assistants in the life, physical and engineering sciences, who he said have different concerns.
The push for graduate student unionization at private universities has grown since a landmark NLRB ruling nearly two years ago that reversed a longstanding precedent and ruled that TAs at NYU were employees. But an appeal filed by Brown last month, and the changing composition of the NLRB, could change the precedent.
Brown officials appealed a decision by the regional NLRB director allowing TAs to hold a union election, challenging both the decision at Brown and the precedent set by the 2000 NYU ruling.
Though nearly 90 percent of the 510 TAs eligible to vote did so in the Dec. 6 and 7 election, the ballots have been impounded and the results will not be known until the University’s appeal is settled.
In the appeal, Brown officials argued that the November decision allowing the election misapplied the NYU precedent, and wrongfully considered TAs employees instead of students. They also argued that the 2000 NYU ruling should be considered by a full panel, since the decision was ruled on with only three of the five NLRB positions filled.
In late December, however, the NLRB stopped issuing decisions when the term of one of the judges expired, leaving the board with only two of the five seats filled. President George W. Bush ’68 has appointed two candidates for board seats, but the Senate has not discussed either candidate yet.
Representatives for BGEO did not return phone calls last week, but Connie Razza, a BGEO organizer, said before the appeal that the group expected administrators to appeal the decision.