A co-chairman of U Penn’s graduate student union, GET-UP, calls on Penn’s leadership to let the ballots from ther election be counted:
Our movement is part of a larger pushback against the structural reform under way in the academic labor market. For several decades now, universities have been replacing full-time, tenure-track faculty with part-time instructors and graduate employees. Like adjunct faculty, graduate employees suffer unprofessional working conditions, crummy salaries and virtually no job security. We have little recourse if the terms of our employment are arbitrarily changed, and we have no grievance procedure if we’re harassed or abused.
We had hoped that President Rodin’s new willingness to engage with GET-UP would bring this impasse to resolution. But despite an atmosphere of cordiality and some stimulating discussion at the mid-December meeting GET-UP’s leadership held with President Rodin, the song remains the same: Penn’s graduate employees voted in a democratic election, and College Hall continues to abuse the loopholes in labor law to deny our basic rights.
The legal limbo in which graduate students at Penn, Brown, and Columbia find themselves is exactly the one which Levin has committed himself to inflict on Yale graduate students should an NLRB vote be held. While he’s argued for an NLRB process over the Card Count Neutrality on the grounds that “democracy means voting,” Levin continues to act as though he’s forgotten that democracy means counting, and following, the results of the vote.
Jacob Remes points out a History News Network account of the tension at the annual Business meeting of the American Historical Association, which he attended, over the successfully passed resolution calling on Yale to respect the right of its graduate students to organize. Yale History Chairman and candidate for Yale College Dean Jon Butler made the unfortunate argument that it was “presumptuous” for historians to concern themselves in a dispute over free speech and the right to organize and the specious argument that calling for a fair process to determine whether GESO represents the majority of graduate students is unfair to any other potential graduate student organizations, and finally tried and failed to stall the resolution on procedural grounds.
David Bacon looks at the institutional and cultural forces behind the fight against labor studies:
The era of enlightened corporate self-interest is long gone, however, if indeed it ever existed. For more than two decades the country’s largest corporations have busted unions as a normal part of business activity, and have lost whatever interest they had in labor-management cooperation. It should be no surprise, then, that the end of union acceptance in the workplace should bring with it an end to the prestige of labor-management cooperation in academia. If employers don’t want it, who does?
As Bacon argues:
The controversy raises a fundamental question about labor rights–should joining a union be protected and encouraged by law and public policy, or are unions just a narrow private interest?
On this question, too many self-identified liberals – writing the labor movement out of its role in every social reform for which they credit enlightened governments – are on the wrong side.