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Yale Grad Students Push for Union Rights

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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
 By Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT - Producer, Contact
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.

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