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Graduate Employees Together University of Pennsylvania-UAW organized a rally on Oct. 4 to show their support for graduate student workers' push for union recognition. Credit: Ethan Young

Graduate students seeking to form a union filed 3,000 authorization cards with the National Labor Relations Board on Oct. 6, possibly leading to the largest union at Penn. 

According to Graduate Employees Together University of Pennsylvania-UAW, a supermajority of graduate workers signed authorization cards early last week, which the NLRB has now counted and validated. 

GET-UP would become the largest union at Penn in recent history with about 4,500 workers, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. This comes after Penn Medicine's residents and fellows became the largest union in Philadelphia in 50 years when they voted to unionize in May. 

The University now has one week to either challenge GET-UP’s filing or help the group move forward in having a NLRB administered election, College Ph.D. student and GET-UP field coordinator and organizer Luella Allen-Waller told The Daily Pennsylvanian. 

“We're hopeful that we can get an election as soon as possible and that the NLRB will help us facilitate that in the coming weeks,” she said.

In a statement to the Inquirer, Penn spokesperson Ron Ozio recognized the NLRB filing.

“Penn is proud of its collaborative culture and the many ways in which the University and its graduate students jointly address student concerns and enhance the academic experience,” Ozio said to the Inquirer. “We encourage students to learn as much as they can about what unionization might mean for them.”

On Oct. 4, around 300 rally-goers attempted to enter College Hall to deliver a letter to President Liz Magill and Provost John Jackson. Following speeches from multiple graduate students and community members, a few students were able to enter College Hall and deliver the letter to a representative in the Provost's Office.

According to Perelman School of Medicine Ph.D. Candidate and GET-UP field coordinator and organizer Jordan Williams, given Penn’s previous actions toward other unionization efforts on campus, the group is prepared for Penn to challenge their filling. Previously, Penn argued that residential advisors were "not employees" in response to their decision to unionize. The NLRB recently certified the election of the RA union.

Williams said that her best guess is that Penn will challenge the filing based on previous action that Penn has taken with other unions on campus.

Allen-Waller expressed similar doubt about collaboration with the University. 

“Unfortunately, because Penn challenged the Resident Assistants filing and because Penn engaged in some anti-union rhetoric in the lead up to Penn medical residents and house staff election back in May, we don’t expect Penn to be supportive, or cooperative in trying to get this election,” she said.

Despite these concerns, Allen-Waller is hopeful that their efforts will have an impact.

“We are extremely excited that our rally and petition this week have the potential to unionize 4,500 new jobs at Penn,” she said. “This will be huge for Penn and for the city of Philadelphia.”