A majority of Penn's graduate students eligible to vote in the union elections last week voted in favor of graduate student unionization, according to a Daily Pennsylvanian exit poll. According to the poll, 60.4 percent of those eligible voters surveyed supported a union, 35 percent opposed a union and 4.6 percent did not reveal their opinion. Of those ineligible respondents who cast challenge ballots, however, the majority did not support a union, according to the DP poll. According to the poll, 63.8 percent of those surveyed who cast challenge ballots voted in opposition to a union, 29.9 percent supported a union and 6.2 percent did not reveal their opinion. The percentage of total votes -- including all challenge ballots cast -- supporting a union is 51 percent, according to the DP's poll. This means that if in the unlikely case all challenge ballots are considered by the National Labor Relations Board -- whose decision to grant graduate students the right to vote on unionization is currently being appealed by the University -- the vote on unionization could go either way. Challenge ballots were cast by those graduate students who are not currently in the bargaining unit and would therefore not be part of a union if one were to form at Penn. The challenge ballots will be evaluated on an individual basis only if the total number of challenge ballots cast is greater than the margin of victory. Years may pass before the National Labor Relations Board decides to count or throw out last week's votes to determine whether graduate employees can unionize at Penn. If the University's appeal is granted, the votes will be thrown out and the results will never be revealed to the public. "Now it's time for the administration to drop their appeal and recognize our union," Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania spokesperson Joanna Kempner said. Throughout the two-day election, DP staff members maintained an exit-polling post as close as legally possible to the polling room in Houston Hall, offering everyone who was allowed to vote with either standard or challenge ballots the opportunity to record their votes anonymously. Around 40 percent of the total number of those eligible to vote participated. As the NLRB will not release the number of votes cast, the percentage of challenge voters participating is unknown. Ed George, a professor of statistics in the Wharton School, used "95 percent confidence intervals," to calculate margins of error based on the DP's data. Assuming those surveyed represent a random sample, the actual majority of eligible voters in favor of unionization falls between 56.6 percent and 64.4 percent. Given the same assumption, those who cast challenge ballots are, in stark contrast to their eligible colleagues, only between 24.6 percent and 35.3 percent in favor of unionization. "It appears the vote could be swayed by including the ineligibles," George said. Indeed, if the challenge ballots are taken into account, the percentage of voters in favor of being represented by GET-UP would fall between 47.7 percent and 54.2 percent. With eligible voters apparently in favor of unionization and challenge voters strongly against, the question of voting rights in the election persists. Deputy Provost Peter Conn interpreted the data as evidence of "gerrymandering" -- manipulation of the voting pool. "We repeatedly urged the NLRB officers to categorize all of our students in the same way," Conn said. "We have, as you know, about 10,000 [graduate and professional students], of whom under 10 percent were defined as 'eligible' by the NLRB." GET-UP, meanwhile, rejects accusations of gerrymandering, noting that the bargaining unit was modeled using the only legal precedent available -- the New York University decision. The organizing committee instead interprets the poll as confirmation of "what we already knew: the graduate employees at Penn overwhelmingly voted to form a union," according Kempner. Conn also felt that the exit poll's incomplete and potentially flawed data was other than reliably representative. "The numbers seem to me to be too small to be meaningful," Conn said, adding that he remains "confident that the majority of those who actually voted and the vast majority of those who were deliberately disenfranchised by GET-UP and the NLRB reject the idea of unionization." Conn also felt that some might be "reluctant to speak their minds in an exit interview that they thought might be some sort of a GET-UP poll." GET-UP published a petition last week with the names of just over half of the members of the bargaining unit, offering it to the community as documentary proof of a GET-UP victory. The exit poll results simply add a "renewed legitimacy" to the organizing committee's campaign, Kempner said. As for the large percentage of ineligible respondents reporting votes against GET-UP representation, Kempner said that the challenge vote outcome witnessed "the administration inappropriately encourag[ing] students to vote." "Rather than allow a fair and transparent election process, the administration attempted to sabotage the vote," she said. "I think that GET-UP has consistently run a clean campaign... followed the legal process to a tee, and the administration has consistently tried to undermine the process," she said, adding that "if the administration has a problem with the bargaining unit, then that is a matter for the courts, not for the election process." Currently contesting the election process in the courts, Penn's appeal will indefinitely delay the release of the votes, as similar appeals have kept ballots from Tufts, Columbia and Brown universities under lock and key.
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