Penn’s graduate student workers took the next step in their movement for a labor union on Tuesday: by filing a petition with the Philadelphia’s National Labor Relations Board to hold a formal union recognition election.
A group of over 1,000 graduate students, who call themselves GET-UP, an acronym for Graduate Employees Together — University of Pennsylvania, have been working toward setting up a labor union since the group made their movement public in March.
Since then, the group has collected official authorization cards from graduate student workers from seven schools in favor of their proposed labor union that would protect the interests of Ph.D. student teaching assistants and research assistants.
Their underlying goal is to be part of the negotiations about their salaries and benefits, as many believe they have no leverage against the University should issues arise.
Central to this movement has been the question of whether graduate students are primarily employees or students.
The University holds that graduate students are students first and workers second.
"We are extremely proud of our graduate students’ accomplishments, and we continually strive to improve their experience through a wide variety of initiatives, support systems and opportunities," University spokesman Stephen MacCarthy said in a statement. He expressed that the University hopes it can satisfy graduate students' without them unionizing.