Members of Graduate Employees Together-University of Pennsylvania are planning to strike late next week.
The group aims to persuade the University administration to drop its legal suit opposing the formation of a graduate student union.
"We would make ourselves visible around the main part of entrances and encourage people not to cross the picket line," GET-UP spokesman Dillon Brown said of the intended strike plans.
The strike is set to take place on Feb. 26 and 27 -- marking the one-year anniversary of the National Labor Relations Board election, in which eligible graduate students voted on whether they wanted to unionize.
The results of that election remain unknown, however, because the votes have been impounded by the NLRB due to the University's pending legal appeal. The University contends that graduate students are not employees and therefore have no legal right to unionize.
Though GET-UP leaders said they have been speaking individually with members since January, and they are confident that members are in favor of striking, the group will vote at their membership meeting next Monday evening to finalize the plans.
"Yes, we've definitely been talking to people for a few weeks now," Brown said. "Generally, we were met with about 60 percent 'yes' response the first time we talked to people."
Two-thirds of the members voting Monday must be in agreement for the strike to take place, according to GET-UP bylaws.
The threat of a strike comes after more than three years of disagreement between the University and GET-UP.
"Over the past several months, we've spoken with our membership and have found that people were increasingly frustrated with the legal obstruction," GET-UP Chairman David Faris said. "So [striking] is the only way to get our ballots counted."
GET-UP organizers said that University President Judith Rodin has refused to meet with them following a Dec. 17, 2003, discussion between both parties. Directly following that meeting, both Rodin and GET-UP officials said that lines of communication would remain open.
The University said that if a strike occurs, classes will not be canceled, and they expect no major distractions to campus activities.
Both GET-UP members and University officials remain sharply divided over unionization.
"Our position is the same as other private universities, and that is that graduate students are students and not employees, and that teaching is an essential component of a graduate student's educational experience," University spokeswoman Lori Doyle said.
GET-UP members say that they are underpaid and under-trained for the teaching responsibilities placed upon them.
The University disagrees, noting that "graduate students are receiving a free Ivy League education," Doyle said.
"In other words, their tuition is paid in full, they get full health benefits, and they also receive a stipend between $15,000 to $20,000 for serving part-time as teaching or research assistants."
GET-UP members argue that because of poor working conditions, it is the undergraduate community that suffers.
"Our working conditions are the undergraduates' learning conditions, and improving our training to be teachers in classrooms, improving class sizes and improving our benefits will directly benefit the undergraduates," said Michael Janson, chairman of the GET-UP Anniversary Committee.
GET-UP members also plan to sit in on today's meeting of the University Board of Trustees in protest of not being placed on the official agenda.Would you support a GET-UP decision to strike? Vote in our online poll on the front page.Comments powered by Disqus
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