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After months of rallies and continued organization, University President Judith Rodin has scheduled a meeting with the Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania to discuss the issues surrounding unionization.

The meeting -- which will take place on Dec. 17 -- is the latest chapter in an ongoing saga, in which GET-UP members and supporters have pushed to count the votes that were cast last February in a National Labor Relations Board election.

Since then, GET-UP has been protesting against the appeal that the University has filed with the NLRB, which forces the votes to remain impounded until the appeal is dropped or the case is resolved.

GET-UP members said they were pleased about the meeting.

"It represents a marked change from the administration's previous refusal to meet formally with us," GET-UP spokesman Dillon Brown said. "GET-UP is looking forward to working with President Rodin on improving Penn's undergraduate education by helping Penn set a benchmark among its peer institutions in terms of its relations with graduate employees."

However, "the administration has not changed its views on the core issues," Deputy Provost Peter Conn said.

He added that there is a consensus among leaders of private universities that all tasks assigned to Ph.D. candidates are to be considered part of their training.

Penn's position on the unionization issue was strengthened by a letter to the University from the NLRB, in which the federal organization said that "interesting and significant issues" were presented in the appeal, Conn said.

The group would like to form a union so they can negotiate stipends and benefits in the form of a contract, which they have not yet received.

But according to Brown, GET-UP has managed to strengthen its ties with the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations, a national labor organization

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney visited campus twice, in August and November, to pledge his support for GET-UP's cause.

In the city, the organization has continued to build on its relations with the Philadelphia Labor Council, and has managed to collect more than 1,000 signatures in support of its cause.

"At the university level, we have expanded contacts with other labor unions on campus and we have increased our membership," Brown said. "We are also working with the [Graduate Student Associations Council] and the [Graduate and Professional Student Assembly] -- even though there is no formal relationship between us."

"The meeting was successful," Brown said. "We were quite surprised that [Associate] Dean [for Graduate Studies Walter] Licht said that sixth- and seventh-year [students] are employees."

Despite that, though, GET-UP members said they are still unsatisfied with the status quo.

"There is clear impatience and frustration with the inactivity of the legal process, which the University could put an end to at any time by agreeing to recognize the election and negotiate a contract with us," Brown said.

Many graduate students said they are displeased with the delays, and continue supporting the organization's efforts toward unionization.

"I do support [GET-UP] -- it's doing a very hard job given the odds against it," sixth-year English graduate student Damien Keane said."The administration is getting increasingly frustrated because the support [for GET-UP] has not gone down at all."

However, administration officials disagree with GET-UP's attribution of the delay.

"The appeal process is lodged in [Washington] D.C.," Conn said. "The University would like to see [the matter] resolved as expeditiously as possible, but that depends on the NLRB."

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