By Stephon Johnson
Graduate workers at Princeton University have followed the lead of their University of Chicago and Cornell University peers.
Last week, members of Princeton Graduate Students United voted to join the American Federation of Teachers and its state affiliate, AFT New Jersey, after the recent National Labor Relations Board decision to classify private colleges’ graduate teaching and research assistants as workers.
“I think the movement to unionize graduate workers in Princeton is part of a larger struggle to highlight the value of academic labor,” said Edna Goodman, a sixth-year doctoral student, in a statement. “Graduate students, undergraduates and adjunct professors have continued to provide cheap labor with little protection, and unionization can help ensure that we are protected as workers. Not only is it a question of labor, but it is connected to job prospects after college, austerity in the university system and autonomy in the workplace.”
“I’m pro-union because I think graduate students at Princeton University need a firm, independent advocate for our interests,” added David Walsh, a third-year doctoral student in the history department, in a statement. “I’m pro-AFT because it has a proven track record of successful organizing in the state of New Jersey.”
AFT New Jersey President Donna Chiera said she appreciated the work graduate workers have put in to get to this point.
“We see organized graduate student workers achieving many gains for themselves and helping our colleges and universities thrive,” said Chiera. “Graduate student workers make significant contributions to research and academics at their schools and deserve respect and a professional voice. We are proud that Princeton University graduate workers are coming together to learn about the many benefits of joining us and encourage them to be part of the union movement.”
By Erin Delmore, Correspondent
[NOTE: The video report concludes that “to form a union 30% of graduate students need to back the effort.” Unions are actually formed when a majority of the workers vote to unionize. The 30% figure represents the percentage of workers who need to agree to take a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) vote in the first place.]
“Graduate students, it’s sort of a misnomer in the sense that we don’t just take classes and then go home and do homework. We do actively produce novel research and that requires a lot of work,” said Akshay Mehra, vice president of Princeton’s GSG.
Princeton University’s graduate students are taking first steps toward forming a union following the lead of other schools in recent months. While there are unions on public campuses, private colleges are just catching up thanks to an August decision by the National Labor Relations Board to classify private colleges’ graduate teaching and research assistants as workers.
“Graduate students that actually work at their universities are spending basically 24 hours a day between their studies and the work they do so that they can support their studies, so they can support their families and so that they can actually spend the time in their studies,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
By Anna Merriman, NJ.com
PRINCETON – A collection of graduate students at Princeton University made the first step in the process of forming a union this week when they voted to accept support from a national teachers’ union.
The students, who have been meeting for months to discuss unionization, accepted a proposal for affiliation from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) on Tuesday, David Walsh, a graduate student at the university said this week. The AFT is a national union that has provided support to other student groups across the country looking to unionize.
Through the affiliation, the AFT can provide staffing, legal support and office space for the graduate students as they work toward unionization, Walsh said.