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Yale Grad Students Push for Union Rights

More than 1,500 graduate student employees and their supporters rallied for a union vote on the Yale campus last week. Courtesy: GESO/UNITE HERE
More than 1,500 graduate student employees and their supporters rallied for a union vote on the Yale campus last week. Courtesy: GESO/UNITE HERE
October 19, 2015

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Graduate student employees at Yale want the university to let them vote on forming a union.

The graduate students are paid a stipend to teach many classes, staff university labs and perform other skilled work.

Aaron Greenberg, co-chair of the Graduate Employee and Students Organization, says his organization is asking for a no intimidation vote.

"That means we'd like them to agree not to run a centralized, organized, coordinated anti-union campaign, and to give us an opportunity to vote on whether or not we want a union," he states.

According to Greenberg, the university has posted fliers around the campus intended to intimidate and confuse students about the need for a union.

The issues that the students want to address through a union include increasing stipends, securing adequate mental health coverage and achieving race and gender equity.

The university says the graduate students' stipends range from $29,000 to more than $33,000 a year plus health insurance.

Michelle Morgan, a seventh-year graduate employee and sole supporter for a young son, says that compensation no longer holds true.

"Over the course of the spring they announced that upper year teachers would face a 40 percent pay cut, and it was effective immediately and there was no recourse around that," she points out.

The student employees are also restricted to no more than 10 hours a week of work outside of their duties at the school.

Greenberg says more than 1,500 students were joined by Connecticut's two U.S. senators for a rally last week.

"Leaders from the city and the state were there, showing their support as we demonstrated for the fourth time in 18 months that a majority of grad employees at Yale want to negotiate,” he relates. “They want a vote, and they want it now."

The organizing efforts at Yale are modeled after the successful effort carried out by graduate teaching assistants at New York University.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT