In a 142-22 vote, Penn residential advisors and graduate residential advisors overwhelmingly voted to form a union after the votes were tallied Thursday night.
The vote represented an approximate 75% turnout from Penn's nearly 220 RAs who are organizing under the Local 153 branch of the Office and Professional Employees International Union. Now, RAs are waiting for the National Labor Relations Board to certify the results before taking next steps.
Voting took place over two days, from Sept. 27 to 28, in the Golkin Room on the second floor of Houston Hall.
"It felt empowering to cast a ballot and contribute to the historic unionization of undergraduate and graduate student workers on Penn’s campus," College senior Conor Emery and second-year RA in Harnwell College House said.
The vote to form a union came over six months after a supermajority of RAs filed to unionize under OPEIU Local 153 and the NLRB. Penn then alleged that the RAs were not employees of the University but instead attempted to classify them as student leaders with an "educational relationship" to Penn since they are not on the payroll. In August, however, the NLRB recognized Penn RAs and GRAs as employees of the University, ordering an official union vote.
In a statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian, University spokesperson Ron Ozio wrote that "The NLRB must certify the election outcome, at which time we will provide more information to the RAs and GRAs."
"We thank the RAs and GRAs who participated in this important process," Ozio wrote in the statement.
RAs and GRAs present at the ballot count expressed excitement for the results, some saying that the election felt like a culmination of their work.
"Achieving unionization gave me a rush of relief, but it also felt exhilarating because bugging my coworkers for the last month paid off," College sophomore and Fisher-Hasenfield College House RA Omar Elsakhawy wrote to the DP. "This sets a precedent, both practically and legally, for RAs at other institutions seeking better working conditions and democratic representation."
OPEIU Local 153 organizer Scott Williams, a 2016 graduate of Penn’s Graduate School of Education, previously told the DP that the next step is for RAs to nominate and elect a bargaining committee, which will be responsible for drafting proposals and collecting input from their peers.
"Everything is on the table," Williams added, when it comes to negotiating with the University. This could include retroactively changing existing contracts to meet union proposals, though he said that “it’s subject to negotiations.”
Penn RAs’ unionization continues a trend among peer universities, including Columbia University, Barnard College, Wesleyan College, and Tufts University.
Senior Reporters Molly Cohen and Jared Mitovich contributed reporting.