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Grad Assistants at the University of Minnesota Push For a Union

December 15, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Supporters of a union for graduate assistants at the University of Minnesota (U of M) are ramping up their efforts with a town hall meeting today on campus. Grad assistant Sara Nelson says unionizing will allow them to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment on equal footing with the U of M.

"It enables graduate assistants to actually sit down at a table with university officials and come to an agreement on issues of wages, issues of benefits, issues of job security."

Nelson says graduate assistant unions have been put in place at dozens of campuses across the nation, resulting in improvements in everything from job security to wages.

"There have been many very successful unions, you know, at really top schools: the University of California system, University of Washington, University of Massachusetts. The University of Wisconsin-Madison is the oldest grad assistant union in the country."

Scott Thaller is a graduate research assistant at the university and also supports the effort. He says having union representation is especially important in these tough economic times.

"We'd like to have a greater say over our terms and conditions of employment in both good times and bad, but particularly in these times, when the situation is very dynamic and things are changing, it's very important for graduate assistants to have a seat at that table."

Several past attempts at unionization have failed; those opposed say a union is just not needed.

Today's town hall meeting on the unionization efforts will be held at 10:30 a.m. at Rapson Hall, 89 Church St. SE. About 4,500 graduate research and teaching assistants work at the University of Minnesota.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN