Letter of Support for the University of Chicago GSU

11th October, 2017

Daniel Diermeier
The University of Chicago
Edward H. Levi Hall
5801 South Ellis Avenue
Chicago, Ill 60637
ddiermeier@uchicago.eduDear Provost Diermeier,

We, the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), are writing to express our support for graduate workers at the University of Chicago in their effort to form a union. We urge you to allow graduate assistants to vote on whether Graduate Students United (GSU), IFT/AFT/AAUP, should be their collective bargaining agent. Since 2007, the members of Graduate Students United have worked to secure increased pay, better healthcare, improved parental leave policies, childcare stipends, and a freeze in Advanced Residency tuition. However, without a Collective Bargaining Agreement, the reforms they have fought for can be ignored or undone by a few clicks on a keyboard. They seek to unionize to ensure that graduate employees have a legally recognized right to democratic input in decisions which impact their lives as workers at the University of Chicago.

Graduate students perform essential work for the university as teachers and researchers. At some point, every undergraduate student is taught by a graduate instructor, and graduate researchers advance academic frontiers. Graduate student labor is the backbone of universities across the world. As members of the GEO, we know all too well that the protections offered by unions are critical for graduate students. All workers should have a right to vote democratically on whether to join a union. Without collective bargaining, graduate employees are often left to face the weight of the entire graduate college on their own. This allows administrators to take advantage of graduate labor and leaves graduate workers vulnerable to difficult choices, such as choosing between quality healthcare and their next meal.

The University of Chicago Administration has argued in hearings with the National Labor Relations Board that graduate employees are not workers. Treating graduate workers solely as students and not employees invalidates the many hours of labor we do for our students and faculty members. The intellectual labor of graduate workers is a major reason why the University of Chicago continues to be a preeminent institution of higher learning and research in the United States. The University of Chicago would not function without graduate workers.

Despite the decision of the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board that University of Chicago graduate assistants are employees and eligible for union representation, the Administration continues its opposition. Your Administration has claimed that Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants are a burden to the faculty. Though this tactic has delayed the GSU union election, they still retain majority support among graduate employees. On September 22nd, you filed an appeal to the election order again arguing that graduate workers are not truly workers and requested a stay of the union election. This move will deny the vote to over two thousand graduate assistants and is profoundly undemocratic.

We urge you to reverse this disastrous decision and allow the vote to proceed. We urge you to be on the side of workers.

Sincerely yours,

The Graduate Employees’ Organization
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
IFT/AFT Local 6300 – AFL-CIO

Email: geo@uigeo.org
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