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Penn State University (daveynin | CC BY 2.0)

On Feb. 9, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board issued a ruling allowing graduate students at Pennsylvania State University the right to hold a vote concerning whether or not they will unionize. 

In August 2016, the National Labor Relations Board released a decision categorizing student assistants working at private universities as "statutory employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act." The vote meant such graduate students could apply to unionize.  

The first step in the process of graduate student unionization is to apply for the right to hold a vote for unionization. Now that the PLRB granted their request, graduate students at Penn State will be able to schedule and hold a vote concerning the formation of a union. 

Students at other schools such as Columbia University, Yale University, and the University of Chicago have already voted in favor of unionization. 

The Daily Collegian reported that Katie Warczak, the media officer for the Coalition of Graduate Employees at Penn State, described students as "ecstatic" in a press release after the PLRB's ruling. 

“We’re looking forward to exercising our right to vote and we're confident that it's a vote we'll win," Warczak wrote. 



At Penn, graduate students are undergoing a similar process as they, led by Graduate Employees Together—University of Pennsylvania, a pro-union student organization, work to organize a vote concerning unionization. 

The University, however, has been quick to push back against the formation of a union. Last week, various administration members circulated emails addressing the potential negative repercussions of unionization

This comes as graduate students at Penn, under the leadership of GET-UP, attempted to secure a similar right to vote for unionization. Graduate students have been looking to unionize for some time, and were inspired by the PLRB ruling in December last year

The dates for the unionization votes at both Penn State and Penn have yet to be set.

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