In a historic vote in October, more than 2,200 graduate employees at the University of
Chicago (UC) voted decisively - by a 2-to-1 margin - to join the IFT and American Federation
of Teachers (AFT).
“Graduate workers across the nation are building power by organizing unions, and the grads at the University of Chicago are helping to lead the movement,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery. “They know that union membership puts them in a powerful position to create positive change and improve the university experience for the students they serve. We congratulate them on their important victory and are proud to welcome them into our statewide family.”
This win will undoubtedly help boost the organizing efforts of graduate workers around the country. Currently, the AFT is working to help graduate employees at Brown, Cornell, Georgetown, Northwestern, and Princeton Universities, among others, join the union.
The Graduate Students United (GSU) victory came after a tough, decade-long fight. GSU was founded in 2007. Since then, members have sought union recognition from a resistant
UC administration that claims graduate workers are not employees and has actively blocked their attempt to organize.
In 2016, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) formally classified teaching and research assistants at private colleges as workers, finally clearing the way for GSU to hold the historic election.
“Our overwhelming victory is a testament to our long-held belief: Graduate workers perform unquestionably valuable work and are the backbone of the University of Chicago,” said Claudio Gonzáles, a third-year UC student and graduate employee. “We have exercised our democratic right and have elected to sit at the table when decisions are made that affect our lives, and also the lives of our students and those in the broader community.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten praised GSU members for their determination.
“I am so proud that the University of Chicago graduate workers came together to fight for this union and worked very, very hard against all the obstacles to win - and win decisively. They get in their gut that a union gives them voice to make a difference in their lives and the lives of their students. The grassroots passion that animated their struggle was apparent from the beginning, and for 10 years they stood strong to achieve this historic victory.”
GSU will immediately move to bargain a first contract with the university administration.