Live updates: Graduate student worker union wins election
February 17, 2023 9:03 p.m. Latest: The union wins the election, NLRB officials say.
USC graduate student workers secured a milestone victory Friday, winning the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining with the University. A decisive 93% of the 1,721 ballots cast were in favor of unionization.
The union, formally known as the Graduate Student Worker Organizing Committee, joins the United Auto Workers union which already represents academic workers from the likes of the University of California and Harvard University.
“This was a pretty big victory — a very clear mandate in favor of the union,” said Yoni Hirshberg, a teaching assistant and one of the union’s organizers. “We will meet USC as equals at the bargaining table.”
Both the union and University have five days to file objections to the election with the National Labor Relations Board. If neither files, the board will certify the results and the University must begin bargaining in good faith with the union.
All teaching assistants, assistant lecturers, research assistants, students funded through training grants and fellows in STEM disciplines at USC are eligible to join the union.
“USC fully supports our graduate students and respects their decision to be represented by a union,” the University wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan Friday. “We recognize the important role they play at the university and are proud that we provide stipends and benefits for our graduate students that already are very competitive with those of our peers … We are committed to bargaining in good faith to reach a fair contract.”
— TOMOKI CHIEN
At a glance:
- The union wins the election, NLRB officials say.
- The voting period has begun.
- NLRB released a notice Wednesday, setting into stone the GWSOC election.
- A union election date has tentatively been set for Feb. 15-16.
- USC graduate student workers are one step closer to unionizing.
- USC graduate student workers have filed for union election.
The voting period has begun.February 15, 2023 4:12 p.m.
Voting began Wednesday to decide the fate of a prospective union of USC graduate student workers, formally called the Graduate Student Workers Organizing Committee. The two-day election will close Thursday at 7 p.m., decided by a simple majority vote of union-eligible workers.
A National Labor Relations Board official said that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the board will count the votes on Friday and should have a rough idea of the result that day — which seems likely to be a “yes” on unionization given that roughly 60% of 3,400 workers signed union authorization cards in December.
“It’s great to get graduate stipends and things like that, and I’m really grateful,” said Marina Massidda, a graduate student studying cinema and media who voted in favor of unionization. “But [USC] pitches it as something you can live on when really it’s not, increasingly so at a rapid pace; it’s just not in step with inflation and rent costs.”
The GSWOC, seeking to join the United Auto Workers union, represents teaching assistants, assistant lecturers, research assistants, students funded through training grants and fellows in STEM disciplines.
Voting commenced simultaneously at Wallis Annenberg Hall on the University Park Campus, the Clinical Services Center on the Health Sciences Campus and Drexler Auditorium at the Buck Institute.
“USC values its good relations with the unions already representing some USC employees, including our food service workers,” wrote Andrew Stott, vice provost for academic programs and dean of the Graduate School, in a January memo. “But USC does not believe that representation by the United Auto Workers is in the best interest of our graduate students.”
— TOMOKI CHIEN
NLRB released a notice Wednesday setting into stone the GWSOC election.February 1, 2023 9:29 p.m.
The fate of a prospective union of USC graduate student workers will hinge on a Feb. 15-16 election, the National Labor Relations Board confirmed in a notice Wednesday. A simple majority vote of union-eligible workers will decide the outcome.
Negotiations last month between USC and the coalition — formally named the Graduate Student Workers Organizing Committee — defined union-eligible workers as all teaching assistants, assistant lecturers, research assistants, students funded through training grants and fellows in STEM disciplines.
“We are united in a belief that by banding together we can have greater support and better lives,” the GSWOC wrote in a Monday press release. “With a union, we can address problems like earning less than a living wage, insufficient healthcare benefits, discrimination, bullying and harassment, and a lack of legal and structural support for international workers.”
— TOMOKI CHIEN
A union election date has tentatively been set for Feb. 15-16.January 19, 2023 4:35 p.m.
USC and a prospective union of graduate student workers tentatively set the dates of a union election for Feb. 15 and 16. The NLRB still needs to draft the formal agreement, which will require both parties’ signatures.
The agreement came after a second day of hearings with the labor board, which defined which workers are eligible to join the union.
Next month’s election will hinge on a simple majority vote of union-eligible workers. The group seems likely to vote in favor of unionization given that roughly 60% of 3,400 workers signed union authorization cards to trigger the hearing in December.
— TOMOKI CHIEN
USC graduate student workers are one step closer to unionizing.January 14, 2023 12:00 a.m.
A prospective union of USC graduate student workers will likely hold a hearing with the National Labor Relations Board starting Wednesday, a union representative wrote in a statement to the Daily Trojan Friday.
The hearing — which will determine workers’ union eligibility — would bring the coalition one step closer to official union certification and allow the workers to strike in the future.
The University is expected to argue at the hearing that graduate student workers funded through fellowships are not employees and therefore not union-eligible, wrote Megan Cassingham, a spokesperson for the Graduate Student Worker Organizing Committee. Spokespersons for USC were not immediately able to confirm Cassingham’s assertion or the scheduled date for the hearing.
After the hearing, the NLRB will set the date of an election decided by a simple majority of union-eligible workers who are likely to vote in favor of unionization, given that roughly 60% of 3,400 workers signed union authorization cards to trigger the hearing in December.
— TOMOKI CHIEN
USC graduate student workers have filed for union election.December 16, 2022 12:00 a.m.
A broad coalition of USC graduate student workers filed for a union election Wednesday, a move that could grant the workers the power of collective bargaining — and the strike — in labor negotiations with the University.
Any strike would be far out, if one happens at all. The prospective union of graduate students employed as teaching assistants, research assistants and assistant lecturers from nearly every academic department will likely go through an early January hearing with the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that protects the rights of private-sector employees.
The hearing would confirm which workers are eligible to join the union, a point that the University could contest; if USC agrees with the coalition’s definition of an eligible member, the hearing would not be necessary.
— TOMOKI CHIEN
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