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University of Minnesota Assistants Vote on Unionization

March 19, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Graduate, research and teaching assistants at the University of Minnesota are voting this week on whether to unionize.

Grad assistant in geography Sara Nelson says unionizing will allow them to negotiate the terms of their employment at the U.

"I think that all employees deserve democratic representation in the workplace. In particular, I think it's important for graduate assistants, because right now we really don't have any say over the terms and conditions of our employment at all. All the decisions are made unilaterally by the administration."

Another graduate assistant, in physics, Scott Thaller, is also in favor of organizing, and he expects approval.

"People who I talk to, a lot of us are very confident that we'll win the election and win it with a strong mandate. There are a lot of graduate assistants who are very excited about having a union, and so we feel that we are in a pretty good position to win this."

Several past attempts at organizing have failed, and those opposed say a union is just not needed.

Roughly 4,500 research and teaching assistants at the campuses in Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth are eligible to vote. If unionization is approved, they would be represented by Graduate Student Workers United.

Details are at

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN