Last updated Wednesday, April 30 at 8:45 p.m.

Chanting “Our work makes Yale work,” and “Union power in the ivory tower,” hundreds of graduate students protested on Beinecke Plaza Wednesday in favor of a graduate student union.

The protest was organized by the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, or GESO, a graduate student union not recognized by Yale. It began at the Hall of Graduate Studies and proceeded down Wall Street to Woodbridge Hall, where the office of University President Peter Salovey is located. With the shutters closed and several police officers guarding the entrance to the building, GESO leaders delivered a petition, bearing the signatures of over 1,000 graduate students, calling on the administration to work with GESO to develop a process for an election on graduate student unionization.

“We may hear the University try to claim that the people gathered here today aren’t workers,” GESO Chair Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18 said on the steps of Woodbridge Hall. “If the University trusts us to teach, they should trust us to negotiate over the conditions of our work.”

 Salovey did not respond to request for comment yesterday.

“Yale University and the Graduate School have worked and will continue to work productively with faculty and students, including the Graduate Student Assembly, on the issues identified by the petition,” University Spokesman Tom Conroy said. “We are committed to the best possible academic outcomes for our students.”
Conroy said that he could not speak to whether or not the University would consider allowing graduate students to vote on unionization.

Much of the debate over unionization centers around the question of whether graduate students are employees of the University. While Yale maintains that they are not, the petition delivered referred to them as “graduate employees,” and protesters Wednesday did the same.

In addition to the election, the petition also calls for increased fairness and transparency in graduate employment, expansion of Yale’s academic workforce — particularly tenure-track faculty positions — commensurate with the 15 percent growth in the size of Yale College and increased equity in the University.

In the final demand, the petition specified that Yale ought to provide more resources for underrepresented minorities, improve support for parents, hire more women and people of color and take strides to create academic workplaces free of sexual harassment and discrimination.

“We have to make sure that those who do the research and the teaching get to have a say in how the research and teaching gets done,” said Antoine Lentacker GRD ’14, a doctoral student in the history department.

Saby Das GRD ’15, who is in the economics department, said that there is wide demand for unionization among the graduate student body.

The petition first started circulating in late March, Greenberg said. In addition to delivering a large copy to Salovey’s office, the protesters also delivered the petition to the office of Graduate School Dean Thomas Pollard.

Greenberg said he anticipates the petition will shift the thinking of the administration, which thus far has strongly resisted unionization. He added that he sees Salovey becoming University president last year as an opportunity to move the GESO agenda forward.

“It’s a new leaf and we’re looking forward to working with him,” Greenberg said.

GESO’s push for recognition comes with the backing of Yale’s two established unions, Local 34 and Local 35, which include the University’s white and blue-collar staff, respectively. GESO, Local 34 and Local 35 are all part of the Unite Here group of unions.

On Wednesday, the protesters were greeted outside of Woodbridge Hall by a large contingent of Local 34 and Local 35 employees and leaders, including Local 35 President Bob Proto.

Protesters chanted “Local 34, Local 35, GESO” as they marched down Wall Street.

“You shouldn’t have to explain that what you do is work. They know it’s work and they try to avoid it,” Maureen Jones, a vice president and founder of Local 34 of the Yale administration, told the crowd outside Woodbridge Hall. “You should be able to negotiate your terms with them like anyone else who does work.”

Greenberg said that the recent push at Yale has been catalyzed by movements toward unionization elsewhere.

Last December, graduate students at New York University (NYU) voted overwhelmingly to form a union after that university’s administration said it would recognize the results of an election. Earlier this month, graduate students at the University of Connecticut also voted to unionize.

Wednesday’s protest also comes on the heels of a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that football players at Northwestern University were employees of the school and that, as a result, they could vote to form a union.

“The time is right now in terms of NYU, the time is right now in terms of the University of Connecticut. The time is also right now in terms of Northwestern University,” Greenberg said.

In addition to speeches from Greenberg and other GESO and Local 34 leaders, a member of the NYU union spoke to the crowd.

In 2003, graduates students voted narrowly against forming a union.

  • LocalYalie

    Matthew, I hope you will address the following:

    Based on your observations, how many were grad students vs 34/35 in rough numbers? There are over 3,000 graduate students so it will be interesting to get a sense of scale here.

    • guest1420

      Hundreds (around 300-500, didn’t get a good sense) of graduate students marched from HGS to Woodbridge Hall; probably 100 allies from Local 34, Local 35, NYU, New Haven, and the undergraduate population waited on Beinecke Plaza holding blue balloons (distinct from the orange balloons held by GESO).

      At the action, one of the speakers said a “supermajority” of graduate students signed the petition demanding fair process.

      • Grad Student

        Just a further note on numbers: the 3,000+ figure of number of graduate students at Yale is inaccurate. That probably includes those in terminal masters programs, professional schools etc. But they wouldn’t be included in a union, since they don’t typically teach or work for the university. It’s those in doctoral programs – all of whom teach – that would be unionized, and only these people were eligible to sign the petition. So the number eligible to sign was about 1,800, and of those well over 1,000 signed.

      • Grad Student

        Just a further note on numbers: the 3,000+ figure of number of graduate students at Yale (given by LocalYalie) is inaccurate for these purposes. That figure probably includes those in terminal masters programs, professional schools etc. But they wouldn’t be included in a union, since they don’t typically teach or work for the university. It’s those in doctoral programs – all of whom teach – that would be unionized, and only these people were eligible to sign the petition. So the number eligible to sign was about 1,800, and of those well over 1,000 signed.

        • gstudent

          That number is pretty close. There are currently 2860 individuals enrolled in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences directly (who are not professional students). Some of these are terminal masters students, but they often teach as well. However, the number of PhD students enrolled directly in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is 2646:

          (http://www.yale.edu/graduateschool/academics/profiles2013/graduateschool.pdf)

          GESO would need over 1700 signatures to accurately claim a supermajority.

  • dcheretic

    GESO has been agitating for a union since the early 1990s when I was an undergrad. I’m pleased that Yale has been able to resist GESOs unionization efforts and hope that current undergrads will not be fooled by GESOs claims that unionization will make Yale better for everyone.

    GESO is part of a strategy by Locals 34 and 35 to gain control over Yale. Locals 34 and 35 have given GESO significant support over the years and, should GESO gain recognition as a union, it will become beholden to Locals 34 and 35. That means that dining hall, custodial, or clerical staff can rope GESO into job actions to pressure the Yale administration into meeting various wage and benefit demands during contract negotiations. The Local 34/35 alliance with a unionized GESO would give effectively give the unions control over the Yale classroom.

    The formation of GESO also stems from resentment by some grad students in the arts and sciences that the undergraduate college is the heart of the university. Yale’s emphasis on undergraduate education is unusual among major research universities and a key reason why the university is able to provide such a stellar college experience to its undergrads. Many grad students do not like sharing resources, including one-on-one access with top professors, with undergraduates. Yale’s focus on undergraduate education, however, is no secret and any graduate student who finds the situation intolerable can head to institutions in Cambridge or Berkeley that primarily cater to grad students.

    Doctoral students in the arts and sciences typically pay nothing for their education. Part of that education, provided by Yale, is to acquire teaching skills through leading discussion sections, grading papers, and tutoring undergrads. Unions were created to protect the working classes, not privileged Ivy League grad students.

    Alum 1995

    • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

      “The formation of GESO also stems from resentment by some grad students in the arts and sciences that the undergraduate college is the heart of the university.”

      In my experience and observation, GESO members also suffer from some weird inferiority complex relative to undergrads. Rather than being proud to be at Yale, these unpleasables often whine and complain about the “privilege” and “attitude” of their undergrad students–which may be legitimate, at times, but also, in my opinion, stems from some sort of jealousy or intellectual intimidation. (And, let’s face it, it is MUCH easier to get into Yale grad than Yale undergrad–especially among certain schools and [mainly non-science] departments).

      • johannesclimacus

        You clearly have no idea what a union does. If GESO members have an “inferiority complex” its toward their employers, not their students. It is their employers who can, and frequently do, arbitrarily change the conditions of their work. They just want a fair say and the security of a fairly negotiated contract is the best way to have that. The undergraduates, some of whom came out in support yesterday, are not directly involved at all, but they would probably have better, happier, more efficient TFs and PTAIs with a graduate union than without. Harder than “getting in” for individuals (as if that was at all relevant) is “getting to” the bargaining table for a group.

    • gradstudentlaborally

      I don’t know if it’s possible for your remarks to be less accurate. I’m as anti-GESO as they come, but your fantastical tales of graduate student resentment regarding sharing face-time with professors is pure fabulation.

      • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

        To what, then, do *you* attribute grad students’ resentment?

        • dspaulding

          Why do you attribute resentment to grad students?

      • dcheretic

        You are anti-GESO and posting under the handle “gradstudentlaborally?” I think your name is a clear indication of your sympathies.

    • Yale alum

      On the one hand, you say Yale grad students are spoiled and don’t deserve any more support from the university–unlike “real” blue collar workers who need exactly that. On the other hand, you say that the goal isn’t even really to improve the wages / benefits of grad student teachers, but actually a ploy by the blue collar workers union to get more for themselves….

      So… which is it? Sounds like you just don’t like unions!!

    • dspaulding

      I’m a Yale PhD student in my fourth year.

      The notion that Locals 34 and 35 would gain control over the classroom is beyond absurd. Unionization would, on the contrary, allow graduate students – the people who actually do the bulk of teaching, grading, and research on campus – to ensure that they are able to do the best possible work. In recent years the local unions have succeeded in negotiating excellent contracts without need for strong-arm tactics that would antagonize the student body. There is no reason why it would suddenly be in their interest to change course once grad students have their own union.

      It’s also ridiculous to claim that the interests of undergrad and graduate education are opposed, or that they are engaged in a zero-sum game over finite resources. I have never once heard a grad student argue for support to be shifted away from undergrads. We’re quite aware that Yale has a strong focus on undergrad education and indeed for many of us this is a reason why we want to be here: we’re here because we value the experience of teaching. We also know, however, that the best teaching happens when the university respects its grad students.

      I challenge anyone to produce actual evidence that unionization lowers the quality of undergrad instruction. As one of the speakers said at the rally yesterday: we’re not trying to get rich, we’re just trying to provide for ourselves and our families. Every person who studies and works at Yale has a common interest in making this institution a better place for us to do what we do.

      Alarmist attempts to play undergrads against grad students are beneath the dignity of a Yale alum.

      • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

        “Unionization would, on the contrary, allow graduate students … to ensure that they are able to do the best possible work.”

        How, exactly? What is it that grad students are not getting enough of? Or doing too much of? What specific obstacles stand in grad students’ way currently that disallows “the best possible work?” (And are you implying that, under current conditions, some grad students are not delivering — or are unable to deliver — their best work?)

        NYU’s grad union focuses on demands regardomg (surprise!) “pay, health benefits and other important economic issues…. such as improving stipends, extending housing benefits, [and] a professional development fund.”

        As before: Mo’ money; less work!

        How might GESO’s demands differ, pray tell? And do be specific.

      • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

        Given that NYU only recently allowed a graduate school union, it would be difficult to produce evidence that unionization lowers private undergrad education. From experience, however, it is certainly the undergrads that have suffered whenever GESO reared its ugly head.

        I do not think that a union would necessarily affect relationships with faculty; rather, it would subtly shift the applicant pool toward (sorry!) the mediocre. Those at the top end of their field–those unafraid of the big, bad academic hiring monster–might be inclined to pursue greater freedom at Yale’s competitors-who-need-not-be-named. Those in need of the warm comfort of the collective–already well-represented here–would flock to the relative security of whatever it is that union-minded students perceive as positives. Just my opinion of course, but backed up by years of observation of undergrad and grad students at Yale’s professional schools vs. GSAS and within GSAS itself in, say, econ versus German. But anecdote ≠ data.

        Elsewhere: In answer to a now-deleted post:

        “Note that [opponents] can’t offer any compelling arguments against the current movement for unionization,”

        – Because you were satisfied enough with the $67/k year + health care + OJT + Yale Ph.D to sign the contract with Yale prior to arrival.

        – Because Yale’s unions, in my experience (to include prior membership) reduce efficiency, waste resources, increase costs (exclusive of labor) and unnecessarily complicate student/faculty life.

        – Because the life of a Yale Ph.D candidate has nothing to do with the life of a Local 34/35 worker (esp. given the–usually–transitory nature of graduate education).

        – Because, despite NYU’s actions, the National Labor Relations Board still explicitly holds that graduate students are not employees.

        – Because If GESO were to succeed, then under Connecticut law every graduate student must become a member, pay dues, and be subjected to the collective bargaining agreement.

        – Because a union is forever; the process required to decertify a union is just as difficult as the initial creation of a union but without the financial backing of a parent organization.

    • johannesclimacus

      Your scaremongering is silly. There are over sixty graduate student unions across the country and in no case has the quality of undergraduate education been compromised. Indeed, for reasons dpaulding explains below, it is the opposite.

      Its baffling to even have to say it, but: Locals 34/35 have no interest in “taking over the Yale classroom.” On their negotiating table they typically discuss health care, pensions, promotion policies, grievance procedures, etc, NOT what gets taught in Directed Studies.

      • dcheretic

        Locals 34/35 have an interest in maximizing their bargaining power over the university. The unions have spent a considerable amount of monetary and political capital over more than two decades to support GESO. They are not acting out of benevolence. They want something and if GESO does get recognized as a union, it will be time to pay the piper.

        Alum 1995

  • reillylikesit

    a few things the YDN would do well to report on in the full article.

    1) how many GSAS students were there vs 34/35 representatives (the first sentence may be very wrong, when this number is found out)
    2) how many science or social science students were there (equal to 2/3 of the grad school)
    3) if the protestors tried and were turned away previously to present this petition to the the president.
    4) why 34/35 would have an interest in supporting GESO
    5) conversely, why GESO thinks it is in their interest to support 34/35
    6) legal precedent at other private institutions for unions, especially ones with majority science, social science students at yale
    7) GESO’s outreach to student government organizations, and those organizations success or failure in working with the administration.

    • guest1420

      1) The first sentence is correct. Vast majority of people there were graduate students.
      2) Not sure, but they said that their petition was signed by a “supermajority” of graduate students, which means that a large number of science and social science students must have signed.
      3) The petition had not been presented to the president before today.
      4) They believe that workers should be allowed to negotiate their conditions collectively? Graduate students are university employees; they do a lot of work that is not just “for their own good” but rather because it must be done if the university is to continue functioning (teaching, grading, holding office hours, etc.). Just because the work is rewarding doesn’t mean it’s not work.
      5) Same as 4.
      6) Check out recent news re: NYU’s grad student union.
      7) A union is qualitatively different from a student government.

      • reillylikesit

        I would urge people to see the number of science students that signed. Because of labor laws, the only private institution, NYU, that has a union, had to exclude all physical, social, biological, and earth science students. At yale, where they make up a majority of GSAS, forming a union without them would make a two tiered system. It would inherently split, rather than unite the grad students.

        • dspaulding

          Science departments are part of the bargaining unit. There will be no two-tier system.

          • reillylikesit

            please let me know where there’s precedence for this.

          • newhavencitizen

            The University of Washington, the University of Connecticut, the University of Massachusetts, NYU-Polytechnic: http://makingabetternyu.org/setuaw/union/set-uaw-local-2110-faqs/#paid

            Please, if you have an ounce of decency, stop spreading this lie.

          • reillylikesit

            You quoted all public institutions. the one private one you mentioned, specifically did not include research PhDs in a union. The site you linked to speaks of a union in the future tense, so i can only glean it does not exists yet.

            The NY times seems to think research students were excluded from the NYU union: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/27/nyregion/with-new-agreement-nyu-would-again-recognize-graduate-assistants-union.html

            If you have the decency to care about your cause (of which the proper treatment, representation, and respect for Grad Students I care very deeply) you would get your facts straight, and have someone answering everyone’s questions about what things, concrete things, a proposed union would push for.

          • newhavencitizen

            Are you aware that the link you provide disproves your point? As it says, the UAW and NYU have been arguing over whether or not the research assistants are in the bargaining unit. It’s possible to have that argument *because it is in no sense against the law* for RAs to be represented. It may well be that Yale refuses to budge on the question of recognition for research assistants, or that not enough RAs at Yale are organized to press the point, and GESO ends up a TA union. That seems totally possible. But understand that it is a question of 1, how intransigent Yale is, and 2, how organized the grad students are in response. That seems like an argument worth having in good faith. The falsehood about some legal obstacle keeps us from having that argument, and you’ve been spreading it all over campus.

        • johannesclimacus

          From what I could tell, about half the signatures were from the physical and social sciences. There are only about 600-700 grad students in the humanities, of course not every single one of them signed, so those extra 500 signatures must have come from somewhere…

  • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

    “In 2003, graduates student [sic] voted narrowly against forming a union.”

    In 2003, despite only a hand-selected, extremely narrow section of GRD allowed to vote, GESO failed to garner sufficient votes to form a union.

    A good synopsis:
    For those who weren’t at Yale for the 2003 “election” or for those who have since banished that embarrassing venture in democracy from memory, let’s refresh: GESO devised a plan to guarantee its own legitimacy as a union through a hastily assembled, poorly advertised vote on whether or not to unionize the group. Behind a curtain of anonymity, the GESO elites devised an ambiguous definition of voting eligibility based on the “mentoring of undergraduates.” The arbitrary definition excluded many science and medical graduate students, most of whom oppose unionization. Even with the election rendered farcical by GESO’s efforts to exclude its opponents, those eligible still voted 694 to 651 to oppose unionization. In the aftermath of the “election,” GESO seemed to fade into oblivion — no great loss for most, as evidenced by their votes.

    • DarthChewie

      You really it’s 2014, not 2003, right?

      Just checking.

  • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

    Some folks are just bred for unions I guess.

    Harking back to “TA Solidarity” back in 1987, a group of unpleasables who were honored enough to accept Yale’s offer (and sign on the dotted line), to drink coffee while pursuing their purported passion–often for free (or even stipended), to get some OJT with the best students in the world and, at the end of it all, to be presented with a Yalensis degree, STILL whine for mo’ money, less work; mo’ money, less work.

    After fooling with their petty “grade strikes,” they got down to some serious thuggery, double-teaming more-hard-working grads for card check. Then, when the time seemed right; the moment; ripe: chicanery!

    From the NY Times:

    In addition, some graduate students complained that the pro-union group had organized the vote unfairly. They noted that it had designated just one polling place, close to the humanities buildings, where pro-union sentiment was strongest, and far from the science buildings, where antiunion sentiment was greatest.

    ”They didn’t do it fairly,” said Shou-chih Isaac Yen, a fifth-year graduate student from Taiwan. ”It’s the end of the semester, people were preparing final exams and papers, and a lot of people didn’t know about the election. GESO did notify all the potential voters who will vote yes. It didn’t notify the other people. That’s cheating.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/02/nyregion/grad-students-reject-union-in-yale-vote.html

  • Anon
  • reillylikesit

    was it hundreds of graduate students, or 10 graduate students and hundreds of local 34/35 members?

    • guest1420

      Hundreds (around 300-500, didn’t get a good sense) of graduate students marched from HGS to Woodbridge Hall; probably 50-100 allies from Local 34, Local 35, NYU, New Haven, and the undergraduate population waited on Beinecke Plaza holding blue balloons (distinct from the orange balloons held by GESO).

      At the action, one of the speakers said a “supermajority” of graduate students signed the petition demanding fair process.

      • reillylikesit

        Please ask any science student at the med or west campus if they’ve even been approached about the petition, let alone signed it. Just because a speaker said a supermajority signed it, doesn’t make it true. I’m totally get and agree with a lot of the problems GESO sees, but playing fast and loose with the facts only sets back the cause.

        • Grad Student

          Again, these are not PhD students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, so they wouldn’t be eligible to sign. However, there are many science PhD students in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and many of them signed. For example, over 50 physics students signed – also majorities in engineering, math, and many more.

          • reillylikesit

            grad student. I really hope you’re not part of GESO. because phd students at the med and west campus are most certainly part of GSAS, and while not eligible to sign due to labor board rulings, should be counted in your PhD total.

      • khymos

        What is a “supermajority” of graduate students? We need numbers here. There are a total of 2,860 students in GSAS (http://oir.yale.edu/sites/default/files/FACTSHEET(2013-14).pdf) and the article reports “over 1,000” signatures – hardly seems to be anywhere close to a majority. Also, what is the breakdown of science versus social science and humanities among the students who signed the petition?

        • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

          It’s a supermajority of those GSAS students that have not “defined themselves out of [GESO’s] interests” (GESO publicity contact Rachel Sulkes, 2005; quote deleted from Wikipedia just yesterday, 30APR2014)

          In other words, all six of them (I may be exaggerating).

          • Grad Student

            No, this is false. It’s very straightforward: those eligible to sign are PhD students in any discipline (which is roughly 1,800). Terminal masters and professional school students (in any discipline) aren’t included because they don’t typically teach and so wouldn’t be part of a union of employees. This has nothing to do with subject/discipline and everything to do with employment status.

          • jtg001

            A super majority is, I believe, over 60% of graduate student employees whom would fall under GESO representation. This is NOT a rigged number, this is based on the ~1800 student employees likely to be covered by the charter. Yes, there are students (Such as many connected to the medical sciences and forestry) who would not be covered. This has also been addressed in other comments. And just incase, here is a gif so you can see it was not just 34 and 35 rebel rousing. http://makeagif.com/i/AfxIQ5

        • johannesclimacus

          There are about 1,800 students in the GSAS. I’d say 1,000 is not a “supermajority”, but a solid majority, and a lot for one month

    • sara

      There were hundreds of graduate employees

  • proustalarecherche

    I would like to invite the Yale Daily News to do a formal inquiry into the despicable behavior conducted by GESO. They are petty, relentless, retaliatory, mendacious, self-righteous, and endlessly preposterous. Interview some grad students who were not at the “protest” and ask them why. You will find some interesting answers.

  • proustalarecherche

    I formally invite the Yale Daily News to inquire into the less-than-honorable practices of GESO. It looks like a wonderfully cheery protesting community, but if you interviewed some of the graduate students who chose not to come to the “protest,” you’d find out some interesting things about their tactics. This deserves journalistic exposure.

    • gradstudentlaborally

      Yes, this is worth some attention. The problem with GESO is and always has been that it is not representative of the graduate student population at large. And this is immensely frustrating as somebody who nevertheless shares GESO’s goals. It would be good for all if the YDN would shine some light on GESO’s more bone-headed recruitment practices and organizational “tactics.”

      In my 6-year experience as a graduate student, I’ve also noticed that a lot of GESO reps seem to be from the social and political sciences. The whole thing smells of post-MA or post-PhD professional résumé-padding to me. If those folks actually cared about having a union, they wouldn’t wait for the University to give them its blessing. They would just ACT like a union.

      Edit: Another thought: How many GESO members are beyond their third or fourth year of graduate study? Because in my experience, GESO harasses first-years and second-years nonstop until they get whatever signatures they need to make whatever statement they will make that will be forgotten in a day. It would be interesting to study attrition in GESO membership. But also likely impossible, since accidentally signing that dotted line means that GESO will count you as a member long after you’re dead.

      • newhavencitizen

        This is such a strange comment! First of all, I was there yesterday, and saw dozens, maybe hundreds, of people from the science departments. Two of the speakers were an engineer and a physicist, as I recall. I also saw people I know from all across the cohort-distribution in their programs: first years, sixth years. Again, some of each spoke: I remember one person talking about having just arrived, another about being about to graduate. As was also noted at the rally, all of the signatures on the petition are from this month, so I don’t know what you’re talking about on the “count you as a member long after you’re dead” thing. None of those signatures are more than a month old. It’s frustrating how you say you support GESO’s goals, but then fling totally baseless assertions at the union, apparently without bothering to show up for its events. A little hard to take you in good faith there.

        It seems like you really don’t understand what a union is or how it works. You can’t just “ACT like a union” without winning, or compelling, the consent of the employer. A union negotiates. That’s its function. If the employer won’t negotiate, you don’t have a union. And it takes an enormous amount of work to get enough people to act in unison to accomplish that; having been on the receiving end of plenty of that organizing work, I can testify to how tremendously difficult it is for grad students to agree to do anything together, much less something brave and kind of scary like this. So I’m not sure what “tactics” you’re talking about besides trying to come to that agreement and turn it into action, by talking about it. And if you think the people who work on GESO are doing it to pad their resumes, then I think you must not be a grad student at all, because that suggests you have *no idea* what the academic job market is like and how you get ahead in it. Just a hint: there’s lots of CV-padding in grad school. It looks like going to conferences, working late in the lab, schmoozing with people in your field, churning out papers. It does not look like activism. It’s sad to me that the only way you have of understanding an idealistic movement like this is by trying to reduce it to professional grasping.

      • johannesclimacus

        Newsflash: yesterday’s action was GESO “acting like a union.” And only 50 of the people marching were dead, so you overstate the significance of the graduate-necro alliance.

        • jtg001

          I look forward to better graduate – deceased relations in the coming years. ^-^ 9

  • dspaulding

    I’m a fourth year PhD student at Yale.

    I’m incredibly proud of our demonstration yesterday, and of the petition we delivered to President Salovey. When GESO says that a “majority” of Yale PhD students signed the petition, we mean exactly that. Significantly more than half of the grad students eligible under a potential contract signed a statement saying that they want Yale to initiate a process to allow them to decide on unionization.

    We have demonstrated majority consensus in the clearest possible terms. The process by which we did so was democratic and horizontal. Grad student volunteers like myself went out to our peers and had hundreds of conversations about what unionization means and what we can do to win. This movement is not some conspiracy but rather a truly grassroots effort to obtain what the majority of PhD students now agree is a reasonable goal. Yesterday we showed that more than a thousand of our colleagues agree.

    There is nothing outlandish about grad student unionization. It’s the norm at most public universities. With the 98% vote in favor of unionization at NYU there is now no reason why private universities can claim to be essentially different. Unionization allows grad students to have a say over the conditions of the work we do as teachers and researchers. It helps to ensure that we can provide the best possible instruction to undergrads, that our labs are safe, and that we receive the support we need to complete our research.

    Given that GESO is now so much closer to winning it’s only to be expected that our opponents are getting spooked. Hence the trolls coming out of the woodwork. Note that they can’t offer any compelling arguments against the current movement for unionization, or give any explanation for why more than 1000 Yale PhD students – presumably intelligent people – would let themselves be so easily hoodwinked. Instead they prefer to dredge up muck from ten or twenty years ago. Sorry, I’d rather have a conversation about what’s happening right now.

    I’m inspired by the hundreds of my colleagues who came out in miserable weather yesterday to show Yale that there is a growing consensus behind unionization. We’re going to keep fighting until we win a union.

    • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

      Yale would never do this, but I would be amused if GESO members won their union but lost their tuition waivers.

      BREAKDOWN OF LIVING COSTS FOR 2014-15:

      COSTS PHD STUDENTS 12 MONTHS

      Housing $11,616 (?! Bull. Get a
      roommate.)

      Board $7,485 (?! Gluttony on the way to glutiny)

      Academic $1,387

      Personal $2,270

      Medical $2,102

      Transportation $2,400 (?! Why is this even included?)

      Total Living Cost $27,393

      Total Tuition $37,600

      Cost of Education $64,993

      For the academic year
      2014-2015, the tuition for full-time study in the Yale Graduate School of Arts
      and Sciences is $37,600. Doctoral candidates receive a **full tuition fellowship**

      In most departments and
      programs, doctoral students are guaranteed five years of twelve-month stipend
      support.

      Minimum fellowship stipends for
      doctoral students during 2014-2015 academic year will range from $28,400 to
      $33,000 for twelve months, depending on the student’s discipline.

      So, total pay to drink coffee,
      pursue one’s passion, receive apprenticeship training AND a Yalensis: $66,000
      MINIMUM (which, the cleverer among you will note, exceeds the “Cost of
      Education,” which itself exceeds reality).

      As ever: Un-Be-LIEVE-able.
      While *some* GESO members sustain their unreality (Seth, Sulke and others who
      have moved up in the UNITE hierarchy), others will, upon graduation, be hit
      squarely between the eyes by the 2×4 of harsh reality–and perhaps even come to
      — *gasp* — appreciate what they had/lost/soiled.

      And I repeat: It was good
      enough when they signed on the dotted line, but somehow between that moment and
      arrival in New Haven the deal was revealed as The Worst Deal Ever.

      Some
      are born unhappy.

      • DarthChewie

        If Yale took away their tuition waivers all of the graduate students would transfer to other schools and no future graduate students would enroll. And the university would effectively cease functioning.

        They’re no more likely to lose their waivers than they are to be collectively struck by lightning, and your even mentioning that issue is a bizarre non-sequitur that only reveals your own violent feelings and vindictively personal investment in this issue.

        • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

          As noted and in my opinion, *with* a union, the *best* students (i.e., those not in it for the money or whose work is of such “quality” that they need not prefer security over scholarship) would be more likely to avoid Yale (or at least, prefer other, less bounded schools, which is the same thing).

          Yes, “even mentioning” ideas, even for amusement or with caveats (and I ain’t no Larry Summers), is verboten in today’s lockstep world, eh? Despite all the claims of “corporatization” of the university, what-we-used-to-call-students do very little of what-we-used-to-call-work for the pay they receive. Do you think the typical Local 34/35 worker is paid ~$60k/year to pursue a passion on very flexible terms with a Yale Ph.D to look forward to after just a few years “on the job?”

          Oh, wait, I didn’t receive the list: is it “violent” and “vindictive” to “even mention” things like absurd “work”/pay disparity (seems like a variant on the au courant “income inequality” issue, but I often apply thought and research outside of politically prescribed parameters).

          Lastly, the idea that, ex waivers, “no future graduate students would enroll [a]nd the university would effectively cease functioning” is absurd on its face. I don’t see SOM, LAW, MED and the other useful graduate schools losing applicants as tuitions rise. Only GSAS, whose students are already effectively on welfare, cry for more, more more… (And were certain parts of GSAS to evaporate — you know who you are — few would mourn; how’s that for “violent” and “vindictive?”)

    • proustalarecherche

      But, how many of those signatures were signed out of genuine good will, and how many were signed simply to get the endless GESO minions from harassing you, or simply were the results of caving into social pressure? I know that many of those signatures were achieved simply as a result of a schock-and-awe campaign that consists basically of the following: “You will sign, or we will come back to haunt you, again, and again, and again, and again, and again.” I would be embarrassed to be a GESO leader, to hand in a petition that consisted of hundreds of signatures that were strong-armed out of weary grad students who just wanted to be left alone.

      • alum

        yes, this. i used to sign to get rid of them. also, that’s why they lost the last election.

      • Yale alum

        Talking to colleagues is not harassment… Yale administrators and faculty disciplining students and holding meetings to intimidate students for organizing in their workplace (as they did in 95 and 03) is harassment… GESO would never get anything done if they did not do the work to convince people that it is a fight worth fighting and that they should not be so scared of their advisors and of getting in trouble with the administration… Much of the work of organizing is telling people, “Don’t be scared. Stand with us.” The excitement at Wednesday’s rally seems pretty real to me–and you don’t get that by strong-arming people!! You get that because people realize and feel that it matters!

    • reillylikesit

      1 private university in the entire country hardly makes this the norm.

      There are nearly 4000 students in GSAS. getting 1000 is only a majority after you tack on a whole lot of asterisks.

      Its not clear what a union would do for me as a grad student. Seems like the first thing rather than the last thing, that should be mentioned.

      What is clear is that if I self identify as an employee, i loose 16% of my current wages to FICA taxes. Is this union going to be so effective that it gets MORE than that in the first rounds of deliberation with yale?

      Take anything lab related out of your arguments, science students weren’t included at NYU, because its illegal under current federal statutes. is that law dumb? yes. But is it the law? yes.

      Does every single public university with a union have grad students who are paid less than yale PhDs? Yes.

      The problem here is that I agree, passionately, with a lot of GESO, and overall grad student complaints: Lack of research funding, shaky career prospects, an pyramid scheme style academy, unclear future prospects, lack of respect for phds from the public. But these are all problems of our government and society, Yale can’t wave a magic wand and get us all professorships. If they were arguing for yale to do a better job of career services I’d be out there besides them with a sign.

      You can’t win this fight be being disingenuous. Don’t come around telling me GESO got me dental care, GESO fought for prescription coverage, that the majority of grad students signed a petition, that theres a legal precedent for ALL grad students at yale to unionize, that the union will bring together GSAS students rather than split them. GESO is full of very smart good people, I can’t imagine they’re lying on purpose. Instead it seems more likely, that 34/35 who run this town as of the last election, are trying to use grad students as pawns for leverage in their eternal fight to eek concessions out of yale using only vinegar and never trying the honey.

      • newhavencitizen

        The “federal statutes forbid scientists from being in a union” thing is an outright lie. Though I’ve now heard it from GSA representatives in several different departments, which suggests that it’s being actively spread by the administration. Talk about well-meaning people being enlisted for trickery. Science graduate students are in unions at a number of institutions, including just up the road at UConn and UMass. At NYU, some of them are represented by the union, some of them aren’t, by voluntary (and re-negotiable) agreement between the university and the union. This agreement, in which the university has successfully insisted on the exclusion of some of its more profitable science departments, seems to be the origin of the lie about the illegality of unionized scientists. Again, there is nothing whatsoever in the law to this effect, so please spare us all the disingenuous “the law is stupid, but it’s the law.” There are literally thousands of science grad students and postdocs represented by unions. See, for example: http://www.uaw4121.org/ and http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/science/articles/10.1038/nj7316-739a

        What GESO has proposed is to represent all PhD students in the teaching departments: the humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences, but not the biomedical sciences where teaching is much less common.

        It is also simply untrue that entering into a voluntarily-negotiated collective bargaining agreement would affect our tax status. You report your income for work you do for the university as wages *already.* Warning that your taxes would go up is a classic union-busting scare-tactic, the same as is currently being used on the Northwestern football players: http://www.post-gazette.com/business/employment/2014/04/06/College-athletes-union-raises-tax-discrimination-questions/stories/201404030298.

        As for the faux-concern of “But these are all problems of our government and society, Yale can’t wave a magic wand”: in what way, exactly, do you imagine that serious social problems get sorted out, except by the people whom they affect organizing themselves, speaking with one voice, and making use of every institutional lever of power they can? How do you think any crisis, ever, has been solved, except this way? The Important People just go in a room and do it for us? That’s worked out well so far. What you’re saying is that because there is no one single immediate solution to the crisis of higher education, no effort at all should be made. That’s pretty damn cynical, even for someone who’s peddling management falsehoods left and right.

        • carp800

          Your comment on taxes is non-responsive. The concern is that once grad
          students become employees their entire stipend would become earned
          income–not simply the years currently classified as income for teaching
          duties–and thus incur a greater tax liability than at present.
          Logically, this seems quite reasonable: employees earn (taxable)
          salaries, grad students receive (non-taxable) stipends. It cannot be “a
          classic” scare-tactic that is “simply untrue” since, as the article you
          link to points out, the legal issue is novel and no one knows how the
          IRS will respond.

          • anothergradstudent

            Graduate student stipends are already subject to income taxes in non-teaching years. Since Yale doesn’t report income unless it comes from a teaching or research assistantship, you are expected to voluntarily report your income to the IRS. From the IRS page you link to: “You must include in gross income amounts used for incidental expenses, such as room and board, travel, and optional equipment, and generally, amounts received as payments for teaching, research, or other services required as a condition for receiving the scholarship or fellowship grant.”

          • carp800

            Thanks for that clarification. I think it would still make a difference to report estimated tax (as a student), rather than have it automatically deducted (as an employee). Under the first regime, you could offset your tax liability via other methods and not pay any tax in the first place, rather than having to wait for a refund. It also appears that FICA taxes do not apply to students.

        • carp800

          Your response to the tax issue is misleading. The question is whether reclassifying graduate students as unionized “graduate employees” would cause the entirety of their stipends–rather than only those they receive in their teaching years–to be treated as earned income and therefore subject to tax liability. See http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc421.html. This cannot be a “classic scare-tactic” or “simply untrue” because, as the article you link to points out, the IRS has not yet addressed the issue and the law is unclear.

    • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

      “There is nothing outlandish about grad student unionization. It’s the norm at most public universities. ”

      As of 2007 there are 28 graduate student employee local unions in the US.

      So… not a 4th year in, say, statistics, I take it?

      What, exactly, would a union do for YOU, Mr. 4th year Soc/Art History/Languages Ph.d candidate? (Am I right?)

  • dspaulding

    A majority of PhD students signed the petition. With rare exceptions, neither professional students nor those in terminal masters programs teach or grade. As such only PhD students are eligible under a potential bargaining unit based on employment as teachers, and only PhD students signed the petition.

  • johannesclimacus

    Hold on BubbJoe, dspaulding is right. Only grad students in the GSAS count, and of those only the ones on the PhD track. That figure is about 1,800. The number of signatures is thus approximately 55%-60%

  • reillylikesit

    I’m still unclear about what GESO wants different in our terms of employment with Yale?

    • http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/lists/the-10-worst-ways-to-die-in-a-hieronymous-bosch-painting-53872 Hieronymus Machine

      No one will answer that question.

      Yale students already have stipends well above most graduate programs (certainly above those with unions), plus comprehensive health care…

      What, exactly, is Yale *refusing* to provide that only collective bargaining (and not, say, the GSA) can solve?

      Anyone?

      • Frederick Poland

        Yalensis, Why exactly do you think Yale graduate students receive the stipends & benefits we do? When and how exactly do you think that became the norm?

  • Dan Johnson

    Only 1,000 signatures after GESO reps hounded and harassed the entire graduate student body for months. Get a hint and stop whining. The PhD stipend is over two and a half times what students in the professional schools get as LOANS to live on for the whole year.

    Alternately, if you want to be considered employees, fine. Just give up your free tuition. Check your undeserved sense of entitlement and be grateful that you’re being paid to get a graduate degree from one of the best universities in the world.

    • Frederick Poland

      Before coming to do a Ph.D. at Yale, I did an M.A. at the University of Washington in Seattle. Because I worked as a TA, I received a tuition waiver and a stipend of about $12,000/year and was a member of the graduate employee union. One of the main reasons I came to Yale was precisely because of the greater financial support, although the health coverage at Yale pales in comparison to what I got while at UW.

      Dan Johnson’s comment might lead one to believe that my background would mean that I would be skeptical of Yale graduate students’ “undeserved sense of entitlement,” but that is not at all the case. In fact, upon arriving at Yale, I was appalled to find that there wasn’t a recognized graduate student union. My feeling was (and is) that if Yale students cannot look beyond their supposed “entitlement” to understand the deeper dynamics of academia in the United States and stand up for themselves, then there is actually very little hope for any of us.

      GESO ought to be commended for looking beyond the simplistic notion whereby privilege is conflated with deference to administration. Graduate students at Yale worked hard to get where they are at and work hard here at Yale; we should not be shamed into believing they are recipients of Yale’s benevolence. Quite to the contrary of Dan Johnson’s comment, GESO has served as an important organization through which many of us have talked about that entitlement (and its limits), and how it puts us in a position to fight for a more just and democratic academy.

      • NewBoston

        “Upon arriving at Yale, I was appalled to find that there wasn’t a recognized graduate student union.”

        So the lack of a recognized graduate student union is something you’d find appalling but you moved across the country for grad school before looking into whether Yale had a recognized graduate student union.

      • NewBoston

        “Upon arriving at Yale, I was appalled to find that there wasn’t a recognized graduate student union.”

        If a “recognized graduate student union” mattered to you so much you were “appalled” by its absence, how is it you didn’t look into it until you arrived on campus?

    • DarthChewie

      Dan,

      Deserving a union has nothing to do with one’s level of privilege. Professional athletes have them. All it means is that you can bargain collectively over the terms of your employment. This is a legal right of all employees in the United States regardless of their salaries.

  • alum

    Ben Begleiter is that you? That last vote you guys called, you lost, b/c none of the grad students wanted a union.

  • alum

    YDN, GESO lost another election they called themselves around 2007-9; i forget the exact date. look it up.

  • Yale alum

    So proud of the grad students for a fantastic action on Wednesday!! The energy seems like it was amazing… I hope this will mean that Yale finally, finally recognizes GESO! Then, all these debates about work v education, tactics, etc will be a thing of the past–and grad students will be quite happy to have a collective voice and a representative body negotiating things like transparency in the way that teaching gets assigned, better family medical care and childcare services, better mental healthcare, equality for international students, and A REAL GRIEVANCE PROCEDURE for students who experience harassment or unfair work conditions… I know there were scientists who could not make it down to the rally on Wednesday because their advisors basically control every minute of their 12-hour days… If those people don’t need a union, I’m not sure who does… The anti-labor voice is the same as it is in any other work setting: “Why do you need a bigger piece of the pie?” Because that’s what all workers should be demanding when administrators and CEOs make six and seven figures!!!

  • Guest

    Yes times are bad , Actually very bad , Like Great Depression bad..But we are pro-union,But we are pro -administration , I want Unin , No I never said I signed , No I just..It is 1984. 2+2 = Whatever you say , whatever Big Brother wants.
    Like Rats on a sinking ship , biting each other,pushing each other overboard , Tampering with lab work , Taking a key to newly painted dorms because , Turning in one’s Father to the Man.Striving to be the most obedient, Terrified.Controlled and subserviant

  • Yale alum

    The moderately liberal coastal elites have spoken!!!!

    http://www.npr.org/2014/05/04/309562121/what-do-yale-grad-students-want-a-union

  • Yale alum

    Just one more thing to say about the NPR story posted below… It’s really amazing how things change. GESO (and before that TA Solidarity) has been at this since 1987–see the history (up till 98) here: http://www.yale.edu/geso/resources/member.htm

    But, you know… you keep banging on the door, you keep fighting, you keep advocating for a more democratic world and a more empowered voice for average people and workers… and things change. They shift in all kinds of invisible ways: people start talking about the same issues, the fight inspires others to take up fights of their own, or maybe the problem just becomes so obvious that it can’t be ignored anymore…

    Either way, the NPR story makes it sound basically inevitable that this is happening. It’s a nationwide trend and Yale is just going to be the next in line…

    Now, whether that’s the reality or not, time will tell. But it looks like if there’s a strike next year, NPR and other outlets will be there to cover it, and from an entirely new perspective than previous occasions. The corporatization of the university is just so damn obvious now–together with the casualization of the workforce and a more general national mourning (on the Left exclusively, of course) for the power of labor–that GESO is basically guaranteed positive coverage, and the Yale administration negative coverage…

    Just saying… next Fall is going to be an exciting time to be in New Haven!!

  • proustalarecherche

    A strange syndrome has taken hold of Yale graduate students. Like many syndromes, it seems benign at first. One doesn’t know one has been afflicted until it has been deeply entrenched in one’s system and cannot be extricated. Indeed, it is not an externally imposed syndrome; it comes from within. We might think of it as akin to an auto-immune disorder, a disorder that stems from the body’s own powers of self-protection but ultimately ends up destroying the system itself. The immune system overreacts, imagines that there are things in the body that need to be destroyed, but are in fact harmless. That which was supposed to heal in fact provokes damage.

    This auto-immune disorder is called GESO. Ever on the brink of destroying itself, and never ceasing to find new reasons to become legitimate, the disorder appears to have no cure. At most, it is a nuisance, like Celiac disease. The body’s immune system overreacts to gluten, but if one simply avoids it, the body remains unharmed. But sometimes the disorder becomes more violent, more unavoidable, more obtrusive, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. The symptoms cause so much discomfort that one must seek treatment.

    The syndrome always begins the same way. It starts with a coffee date, or a lunch. You are told you are charismatic and could be a leader; you are informed about how horrible things are and how much better things could be; you are asked to join the immune system of the graduate students, this silent majority that eagerly yearns to be recognized as a union by the university. Who wouldn’t want to contribute to the graduate school’s immune system, especially when there are such great threats to its health, such as…

    The syndrome becomes obtrusive after a few weeks. As one of the graduate students’ white blood cells, you must continue to coagulate in rambling, embarrassing meetings in which the potential threats to the system’s health are brainstormed, and the newly-arrived cohort of white blood cells are brainwashed. Then the attack phase begins. The converted begin to identify those elements in the system that are somehow undesirable. The undesirables are those who, by their lack of interest or refusal to tow the party line, need to be absorbed into the system with a little more of a push. So they will come back at you, again and again and again, using every mode of communication imaginable, refusing, again and again and again, to interpret the signs of your lack of interest. Speaking with the brainwashed minions is not unlike interacting with a well-trained beehive of telemarketers: for every objection to every illogical claim that you can muster, there will always be an answer, no matter how tenuous, no matter how unfounded, no matter how silly. This mode of autoimmune attack often works; the uncoverted cave in, sign the damn papers, and go on with it. Sheer, relentless pressure will have converted not a few to the so-called majority.

    Some elements in the system are more steadfast and require further wearing down. In a recent case, an undesirable, who had refused to capitulate to the autoimmune attack, found himself ambushed outside of class by a pair of particularly tenacious worker bees. There are other techniques as well. One is to butter you up, to pay for your lunch, to chit-chat until the real subject is at hand: conversion to GESO. Sometimes the technique is explicit, and sometimes it is nothing more than sheer bait-and-switch. Sometimes there are nastier methods, such as implying that refusal to become one of the shapeless mass of self-destroying white blood cells is indicative of your conservative politics, your personal wealth, your disdain for the underprivileged. The thing with autoimmune disorders is that the body thinks it’s being helpful when it’s actually doing harm; the self-righteousness of the worker bees can be witnessed in their extraordinary sense of entitlement. Not only do they refuse to accept an individual’s refusal to convert, they demand explanations. And they demand them again. And again.

    I realize this will only trigger a strong autoimmune reaction among the converted masses of GESO’s white blood cells. But one has to wonder: isn’t the graduate student community better protected when it isn’t threatened from within?

  • Yale grad student 2022

    Proust — while conservative politics, wealth, disdain for the “underprivileged”–in addition to white maleness and an Ivy League education–do all seem like they make for a pretty solid profile of someone who is anti-labor and anti-union, the larger point is that if you think it is grad students who are “poisoning” the perfectly healthy bloodstream of Yale, that itself is a reflection of your own privileged experience…

    You write: “But one has to wonder: isn’t the graduate student community better protected when it isn’t threatened from within?”

    Here’s the real threat: 50% of grad students in the natural sciences are women, while something less than 20% of the faculty are women… There are about 50 black grad students in all of GSAS, and I think we could probably count black faculty on two or three hands. And yes, maybe grad students who have children would like better healthcare for their families and better daycare services so they can actually do the work required of them. –Those are all issues that are directly related to graduate student experience here, and whether people feel like it is actually a place for them–or whether it’s just a place for rich, white men (Don’t forget that Yale College didn’t start admitting women until 1969… not that long ago).

    Also, just as a general rule, people closer to finishing their degrees have a way better understanding of why GESO is important than those in coursework–just because they are closer to the job market and all the uncertainty and anxiety that go along with it. So, if you’re in coursework right now (and not teaching–not even doing the “work” yet that would be covered by a contract), it takes maybe a little bit more imagination to see why this would matter to people.

    The reason for organizing is to ask people to see those larger stakes–and past their own complacency. That does take work, and that does take some tough conversations. Doing politics with fellow students and colleagues is not easy, but GESO is trying to make Yale better, and in lots of way it’s already succeeded… There would be no grad student representative bodies on campus at all without GESO (even the extremely limited GSA)… Not to mention the stipend, the health insurance–those were all things that GESO fought for and won…

    So, your experience here has already been improved by the union. You may not like being “bothered” by your friends about this, but it matters. It would be a truly historic feat–for labor and for the academy–if Yale recognized GESO. To build something that could fight and win against a 22 billion dollar corporation… that’s worth going and talking to people, even two or three times. Sorry your experience has been so bad, but there are plenty of people (we might say: a super majority of people) who have not had the same experience.

    There is simply no way that 500 people show up to a march–and then all chant “We want a union!”–because they feel pressure from their friends to do so… That just doesn’t make sense.

    People do that because they realize that it’s a big deal.

    • proustalarecherche

      I hate to break it to you, but you’re a graduate student at an Ivy League Institution as well. By any standards, in comparison with the heinous suffering millions of people must bear in the world, whether due to disease, poverty, hunger, or political oppression, you also live an extremely privileged existence as a fully-funded graduate student at Yale University with full health-coverage and a guaranteed commitment for 5 years (compare to graduate students in other countries, even at top universities, who don’t receive remotely anything like what we do). If there is a crisis and if there is complacency, it is not with respect to joining together with all the other oppressed workers of the lost Zola novel we are all living and fighting this “22 billion dollar corporation” as you absurdly deem Yale (why did you come here if you hate it so much?), it is with the radical lack of perspective the GESO members have with respect to the real crises of the world: if you’re worried about being complacent, why accept your generous stipend from this heinous corporation? Why not kick it and go do something good in the world? Join Oxfam? Doctors without Borders? You’re kidding yourself if you think the local problems we face remotely correspond to the legitimate sufferings of laborers in, say, Apple factories in China.

      Also you had a whole FIVE HUNDRED people come!? Wow! (It didn’t look like that many, but I’ll trust you.)

      According to the Yale Office of Institutional Research (http://oir.yale.edu/yale-factsheet), there are 2,860 enrolled students in the graduate school. That means you got 17.5%. If you got all 1,000+ signatures to come (let’s say, 1200 for the hell of it) that would be 43%. Should we go on urbandictionary.com and define the new word “Supermajority” as “unionspeak for a minority?”

      • Yale grad student 2022

        “By any standards, in comparison with the heinous suffering millions of people must bear in the world, whether due to disease, poverty, hunger, or political oppression, you also live an extremely privileged existence as a fully-funded graduate student at Yale University” –> not sure why this is a reason NOT to fight for greater gender and racial equality within an elite institution like Yale. Privilege means responsibility (to paraphrase that line from Spiderman), and all of us who have the power to actually right a few wrongs should use that power. No one’s comparing the GESO fight to the fight to combat world hunger. I will say though that the people in New Haven who fight every single day to combat hunger in this city–in the actual city that we all live in–want GESO to win. Not sure what that tells you, but the Left in this city and the working class people in this city believe that GESO “gets it.” That’s because the unions are the ONLY THING in between the corporations and the working people, and a win for GESO is a win for 34 and 35 and those organizations as well. (See organizations like New Haven Rising… they’re the ones trying to force Yale to hire people from within New Haven. They’re the ones trying to make sure that it’s New Haven residents who benefit from all this ‘development’ / gentrification in the city.)

        “You’re kidding yourself if you think the local problems we face remotely correspond to the legitimate sufferings of laborers in, say, Apple factories in China.” –> again, I would never, ever claim that in a million years. However, a win for GESO is a win for labor, plain and simple. That’s why Unite Here!–a pretty damn big organization that organizes hotel workers and all kinds of real, genuine blue collar employees all over the world–is pouring money and resources into GESO. Don’t really need any more evidence than that to realize that Labor thinks this is important!

        “Also you had a whole FIVE HUNDRED people come!? Wow! (It didn’t look like that many, but I’ll trust you.)” –> I have no idea how many people came, but the estimate would have it at around that many based on how many RSVPs we got and what previous actions have looked like, etc

        “Should we go on urbandictionary.com and definite the new word “Supermajority” as “unionspeak for a minority?”” –> Glad you’re an Urban Dictionary fan… Basically, here’s what’s going on with the numbers… last year, the NYU administration struck a deal with the grad student union there to cut the biological sciences out of the bargaining unit. That’s what the administration wanted because the funding for those programs works differently than the rest of the grad school and because they account for a huge percentage of the university’s revenue. The Yale administration–if they were absolutely forced to recognize GESO–would want the same thing. GESO would love for the biological sciences to be represented. However, we are for the moment trying to follow the NYU playbook. Hence: 1100/1800 = supermajority of the bargaining unit that we want–and think we’re capable of winning–in the immediate future.

        • proustalarecherche

          What a great new way to doctor numbers! If we get rid of all the people who wouldn’t be interested, we’d have a majority! That’s like the Republican party saying – we have a supermajority! (if you get rid of blacks, poor people, highly educated residents of the Northeast – we’d love them to be a part of our party, but they’re not going to be).

          What irks me more is the lack of transparency. Couldn’t you have explained this numbers game to begin with, rather than spouting your falsified rhetoric?

          I also don’t understand it when GESO suddenly becomes a race and gender equality thing. It’s an annoying move, because, even though race and gender quality is not usually pitched as one of the goals of GESO (rather, bargaining power, work conditions, and so on), all the sudden when the rhetoric gets heated up, you throw in race and gender, and we suddenly aren’t allowed to object, because it seems as though, therefore, we are not supporting race and gender equality. If you object to GESO as an organization, that doesn’t mean you have to be AGAINST race and gender equality! It’s an unfair thing to claim. There are other ways of being in favor of promoting race and gender equality than supporting GESO – in fact, some more direct, more pressing ways indeed, for those who aren’t in favor of simply waiting around until GESO happens.

          All my best. Of course I wish every graduate student to have the best experience possible, and not supporting GESO does NOT mean that you are not supportive of graduate student rights or progress. My argument has always been that the entitlement and nuisance of GESO, coupled with its tendency to doctor its information (as you readily admit) and to cloud its general vagueness with the high rhetoric of race and gender, actually contributes to an overall worsening of graduate student experience: at least for some (including me). I’m astonished by the propagation of a massive lapse in critical thinking that has contributed to this hysteria, but I suppose I am just a privileged, white, conservative, rich, labor-hating, racist, misogynist. I’m going to go hang out with my friend Marie Antoinette at the castle now, and eat cake while I watch my poor colleagues suffer.

          • Yale grad student 2022

            Re: gender / racial equity issues… A few years ago, Yale made a commitment to hire more women and people of color as tenure-track faculty. They recently admitted they have failed to meet the pretty reasonable goals that were set… Part 2: Yale is opening two new residential colleges. They say they are not going to add any more tenure-track faculty (itself a microcosm of the whole job market problem), but they are going to hire adjuncts. Of course, many of those adjuncts will be women and people of color (who are much more strongly represented as adjuncts in the academy than they are as full-time faculty)–and, of course, these people will be paid way less and have way less job security. It doesn’t take much to see how the issues that GESO is fighting for are related to race and gender. In fact, these issues cannot be separated!!!

            GESO has always been an organization that has been fighting for issues surrounding racial and gender equality. If organizers haven’t made it a central part of the “rap” in conversations with members, that’s largely because the campaign right now is so focused on winning that some of the more targeted campaigns have temporarily put on hold for the most primary of the goals: the right to bargain a contract with the university (which, of course, is the main result and the main power that GESO would have). However, that is not representative of the history of GESO, which has always been very active on these issues and which has long been run (and still is) by many women and people of color. GESO has run campaigns in the past surrounding hiring practices and we continue to talk about the experience of junior faculty here, especially the problem of attrition of minority and women junior faculty. We are also running a campaign over the summer about equity in the sciences, so it is definitely front and center again (also represented on this Spring’s petition if you saw it, and, therefore, in conversations with members). These issues are directly related to grad student experience. If you don’t have people around (in positions of power) who you feel represent you, you are not going to feel at home at Yale. It’s that simple.

            (Just a note. You say “wait around until GESO happens”… If all the grad students stood up today and said they wanted a union, we’d have a union. Don’t blame the organization for how difficult it is to organize and win. Blame the university.)

            Re: numbers… Every organizer understood exactly the way that the numbers were being broken down, and the way that a majority or super-majority was being calculated. I am sure that nearly every member who had a conversation with an organizer, therefore, also understood exactly what a majority would mean, i.e., “a majority of our projected bargaining unit.” (This was definitely communicated to everybody in my department.) Since it doesn’t sound like you have been meeting with the organizers in your department, you probably wouldn’t have gotten this information, even though simply asking them would have been enough. Second, I don’t think saying “majority of our projected bargaining unit” is obfuscating, and I don’t think any of the press reports of the action said “majority” anyway. 1000+ grad students on a petition is impressive enough apparently, and they mostly ran with that. Third, we’re not going to waste valuable time talking to the press explaining this whole thing, although if they had asked, of course, we would have supplied the full logic / thinking. Much more important in our very limited time (both face-to-face with reporters and limited amount of time / space on an NPR report or in a newspaper article) to talk about exactly what we’re asking for, exactly what the stakes are, etc. Fourth, this is politics!!!! Just wait till you see some of the stuff that the university is going to pull when this campaign heats up. If you think GESO lies and obfuscates information, you ain’t seen nothing yet. And if you think GESO’s central problem is a “lack of transparency,” then what must you think of Yale University?

            One thing that strikes me about GESO is that in comparison to other representative bodies, we are an organization that has about 150 people who organize (go to meetings every single week and go out and do real work for the organization) and 1000 people who are in pretty regular communication with the organizers…. That strikes me as a pretty democratic–and directly democratic–organization. All you have to do is communicate with the person organizing you and the message gets to the top in one step. And, of course, the “top” is the 35 grad students on the coordinating committee who meet every week together and who all come from different departments. If it looks non-transparent and non-democratic, that’s a failure of organizing (i.e., getting you involved in a meaningful way) more than it is a failure that represents the reality. As you know, GESO reps are happy to talk. Just ask for a meeting to have questions answered or concerns heard and I know people would love to hear you out and help.

    • reillylikesit

      I doubt that the GSA and GPSS members who fought for the dental, eye, and expanded health plans, lobbied for direct relationships and meetings with corporation members, now sit on the board of the health plan, have meetings with the president, lobbied for expanded advocacy for G&Ps and now sit on mental health advisory boards, the sexual harassment task force, and housing committee, and on and on, I doubt these people who have spent years advocating and working hard for students would enjoying being referred to as “limited” while their achievements get co-opted by GESO as their own nebulous accomplishments.

      • Yale grad student 2022

        I would never take anything away from what GSA and GPSS do. The people who are part of those organizations are good citizens and the fact that they take any role at all in university politics is admirable. Also, I have tons of friends in both groups who I like a lot. (the good news is that they’re all also GESO members who can see the bigger picture, too.) GSA and GPSS, therefore, are great!

        However, GESO would be able to BARGAIN A CONTRACT with the university. Compared to that kind of power, of course GSA and GPSS are “limited.” Would you really want to argue with that? Right now, the university could walk away from GSA and GPSS at any time, could choose not to listen to them, etc. In fact, I would say that one of the only reasons they don’t is because GESO is there to potentially use people’s frustration to our own advantage.

        Also, we have to be honest. GESO sets the agenda: healthcare, stipends, etc…. these things were not even on the table in the early 90s before GESO started organizing. That’s just history