After decades of trying, Yale grad students win vote to unionize

Attempts at unionizing date back to the early 1990s for Yale employees, and on Monday those efforts finally came to fruition.

Graduate teachers and researchers at Yale University swept the floor with 91% of the votes supporting the authorization of union Local 33-UNITE HERE. Among the 2,000-plus votes that were cast, 1,860 voted yes.

“Generations of grad workers have organized before us, and I’m really excited to finally win,” said Ridge Liu, a graduate student in a written statement, the Associated Press reports. According to Liu, graduate students are demanding better pay, health care and grievance procedures.

The university has one week to file its objections. In a message to the campus community, Yale President Peter Salovey wrote “the university will now turn to bargaining in good faith with Local 33 to reach a contract.” The bargaining unit, he explained, will include “students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences who have teaching or research appointments and students in the professional schools who have teaching appointments.”

According to Salovey, the decision to allow for a vote to unionize was clear for the well-being of Yale’s students.

“Throughout the fall semester, we have consistently affirmed a few key facts and principles: that the leaders of the university care about the well-being of all our students, that a democratic election in which all eligible students have the right to vote was the appropriate way to decide the question about unionization, and that we should address this matter as a community through civil, open discourse.”

Previously, however, the university denied a bid in 2016 by a group of grad assistants attempting to unionize on the grounds that they are deemed students, not employees.

Citing Monday’s victory, one graduate teacher told the AP that the pandemic exacerbated the need to unionize.

COVID-19 revealed “the precarity of our work and the need for stronger workplace protections,” he said. The efforts of graduate students “makes Yale work and we deserve a seat at the table through our union and a contract.”

“This has been a decades-long fight for a union for Yale’s graduate students, teachers, workers and researchers,” tweeted Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. “I am proud to have been fighting alongside organizers and commend those workers whose overwhelming support in this election has made the formation of this union real.”

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Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a University Business staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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