Graduate Students United (GSU) is the union of graduate student workers at UChicago, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and American Association of University Professors. In October 2017, UChicago graduate employees participated in a historic vote and overwhelmingly voted to unionize. In response, the university ignored GSU’s request to begin the collective bargaining process and instead launched a vicious attack on graduate workers. The university administration challenged the election order, claiming that graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants are not employees. After this claim was rejected by the regional NLRB, the university administration petitioned the Trump-nominated National Labor Relations Board to reverse the previous board’s ruling granting collective bargaining rights to graduate employees at private universities. Though UChicago frequently touts itself as the home of “free speech” and “rigorous inquiry,” the administration has chosen to ignore the voice of its graduate employees.
Instead of accepting the results of our democratic vote to unionize they choose to hide behind the Trump administration, one of the most anti-worker and anti-intellectual administrations in this nation’s history. Had the university prevailed in its appeal, not only would GSU be stripped of its right to collectively bargain, but that right would be taken away from all graduate employee unions at every private university in the country. To preserve the current law and to prevent the Trump NLRB from taking away the right to unionize from all graduate workers at private universities, we pulled our election petition and are now demanding recognition directly from the University of Chicago. We have submitted three requests to begin the bargaining process and have been rebuffed each time. Enough is enough. The University of Chicago administration must respect the voice and vote of the supermajority of graduate workers at UChicago and recognize GSU for the purposes of collective bargaining and, in good faith, enter into contract negotiations with GSU.