Yesterday, several dozen undergraduates and grad students met up to discuss the ways in which Yale’s graduate student pay inequity disvalues their work and our education, to deliver a letter to Graduate School Dean Peter Salovey, and to begin planning a larger mobilization for March.

Back home in Philly, U Penn’s superior-acronym-bearing graduate student union, GET-UP, has announced plans for a two-day strike next week to coincide with parade welcoming Penn’s new President to demand that Penn agree to count the ballots from the union election held by its grad students a year ago:

Rich Klimmer, an organizer with the American Federation of Teachers based in Philadelphia, said that, by contrast, when he was a graduate student at Northwestern University in the late 1960s, graduate students did not do any teaching until they had finished all their coursework. He said they also were given three weeks of training on how to prepare and give lectures and how to build and grade exams.

“Now, under the corporate model of running a university, they take anyone and put them in the classes,” Klimmer said.

Money and benefits are at the root of the bid to unionize. Graduate students, who are paid on average $15,000 a year, argue that they don’t earn a living wage for this region. Many graduate students are older, returning students who have families. Deirdre Martinez, 36, a graduate student in Penn’s education school, has two children ages 5 and 7 and a husband who teaches at Temple University. She said universities such as Penn need to treat adult learners with the same respect they would expect elsewhere.

Penn, Brown, and Columbia, at Yale President Levin’s urging, have all had the ballots from their NLRB elections impounded, pending a potentially decade-long appeal process as far as the Supreme Court. This is the legal limbo into which Levin has expressed his desire to shunt GESO as well. That’s why GESO continues to demand a fair process whose results can be recognized by both sides.

Democracy, Levin often likes to remark in disparaging the more democratic Card-Count Neutrality process, means voting. If democracy means voting, then surely it demands that the votes be counted, and the results followed. That’ll take the continued struggle of graduate students across this country.


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