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The GET-UP unionization election will be held on May 1 and May 2 at Houston Hall's Bodek Lounge. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

The unionization election for Penn’s graduate student workers has been rescheduled to May 1 and 2.

The election for Graduate Employees Together — University of Pennsylvania will take place in Bodek Lounge in Houston Hall and will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on both days. The announcement comes less than a week after the sudden postponement of the vote, which was originally scheduled for April 16 and 17.

The organization is encouraging all graduate student workers to head to the polls and vote to officially gain recognition and representation by United Auto Workers.

“There's sort of two sides to my feelings right now,” sixth year Biology Ph.D. candidate and GET-UP organizer Luella Allen-Waller told The Daily Pennsylvanian. “It’s excitement for the new election, and its ever-deepening frustration with Penn's attempt to delay this democratic decision making.”

GET-UP has been pushing for a fixed election date since last October, when over 3,000 student workers filed union authorization cards with the National Labor Relations Board. Since then, the organization has faced multiple delays to the election, including last week, when the election was abruptly postponed days before students were scheduled to vote. 

On April 10, GET-UP announced that it had won an appeal to the NLRB that would allow workers, researchers, and teachers classified as Educational Fellowship Recipients to vote in the election after they were previously excluded by Penn. A day later, the election was postponed.

“We were not expecting there to be a delay,” Allen-Waller said. “When we won that appeal, the fact that [Penn] requested an additional two weeks to get the voter list indicates that they had not begun to prepare for the possibility that we would win that appeal.” 

In an April 16 email to graduate and professional students, Provost John Jackson Jr. and Vice Provost for Education Karen Detlefsen wrote that the postponement was due to an April 10 order from the National Labor Relations Board determining that approximately 300 PhD students should be permitted to vote. The email, which was obtained by the DP, referenced several processes that the newly eligible students must undergo, such as being notified of their right to privacy from the union and NLRB.

“These 300 students must now be added to the voter list, which must be shared with the NLRB and the UAW," Jackson and Detlefsen wrote in the email. "There are legal timeframes for these important processes … that could not be met for an election on April 16 and April 17."

According to the Stipulation to Reschedule Election from the NLRB, the election was postponed due to “administrative reasons beyond the control of any party to the election” after the appeal decision was released.

“The University cooperated fully with the NLRB to enable the election as requested,” Jackson and Detlefsen wrote.

A Penn spokesperson wrote to the DP that on April 15, the University and GET-UP agreed to a stipulation rescheduling the election for May.

"The NLRB drafted the stipulation, and the text plainly explains why the NLRB postponed the election date," the spokesperson wrote.

Multiple GET-UP organizers told the DP that Penn also cited lack of available space on campus as reasoning to delay the election, and that the administration attempted to push the election until November.

Allen-Waller said that the election’s delays have not affected graduate students’ desire to vote and gain union recognition.

“Folks are really riled up,” she said. “This sort of obstruction began when Penn tried to exclude Educational Fellowship Recipients from voting by claiming that they aren't workers, which is false. People are cognizant of it, and everyone is really fired up to work together.” 

“We have every intention to win our election on May 1 and 2,” fifth year pharmacology Ph.D. student and GET-UP organizer Kyla Mace wrote to the DP. “This postponement is just the beginning of Penn’s attempts to delay, demoralize, and scare us out of unionizing.”

Sixth year Ph.D. candidate in history and sociology of science and GET-UP organizer Sam Schirvar told the DP that Penn’s claims of full cooperation with the NLRB were “a bit misleading — Penn was using the appeal to delay the election.”

However, Schirvar noted that the delays, although frustrating, have only made the group stronger.

“It’s made it clear we need to have a democratic voice at this University,” he said. “We can’t rely on the administration.” 

Mace agreed, citing fear from Penn about GET-UP building power across campus and across the movement of unionization in higher education. 

“My hope is that grad workers continue to build resilience, agility, and trust in each other so we can withstand whatever comes our way,” they said. “Penn can claim legal and administrative reasons for the postponement all they want, but in reality, this postponement is a direct result of Penn’s choice to obstruct us at every juncture.”