the President and Provost
Graduate Student Unionization
Thursday, the Regional Director of the National Labor
Relations Board issued a long and complicated decision
about graduate student unionization at Penn. We wanted
to reiterate our response, also issued last Thursday,
because of the importance of this matter to the life
and work of the university community.
that our graduate students are students, and not
employees. However, we recognize that the
NLRB has reached a different conclusion. Like
our colleagues at Brown, Tufts and Columbia, we believe
that the issue of graduate students "as
employees " warrants
further legal review.
as our statement makes clear, we find it both inexplicable
and unfair to discriminate between the rights of different
graduate students depending solely on their chosen
area of scholarship. That is why we are planning to
appeal this decision by the Regional Director to the
full National Labor Relations Board in Washington.
We believe that holding an election in which some
graduate students are allowed to vote on the issue
of unionization while others are barred from participation
would be unnecessarily divisive. If there is to be
a vote, then every graduate student should have a
voice; not only a select few.
we believe that because Penn graduate students are
skilled researchers and critical thinkers they will
conclude, as Cornell graduate students did overwhelmingly
late last month, that a uniform union contract would
not serve the unique, individualized needs of graduate
to the NLRB Decision
afternoon [11/21/02] we received word that the National
Labor Relations Board's Regional Director issued a
Decision and Direction of Election finding that certain
graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania
are employees when they are teaching and research
assistants at the University. The NLRB has directed
an election to determine if a majority of these graduate
students desire to be represented by a Union.
complicated decision arbitrarily divides and discriminates
among graduate students in determining who would be
eligible to vote and who would not. For example, the
decision includes some professional masters degree
students in the proposed bargaining unit and excludes
other comparable professional masters degree students.
Even the regional director recognizes that there is
no basis for the distinction drawn between Ph.D. candidates
in the natural sciences (excluded) and the social
sciences (included). The regional director says that
she is "compelled to follow the NYU case," even
though she concedes that she would "otherwise
agree with the University's contention that Natural
Science RA's should be treated the same way as other
decision makes no sense for graduate students at Penn.
We hope that the students themselves, like their counterparts
at Cornell, would come to the same conclusion.
disagree with this decision and plan to appeal to
the National Labor Relations Board in Washington,
as have Brown, Tufts and Columbia.
will continue to keep you informed of future developments
in this important matter.
Judith Rodin, President
Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 14, November 26, 2002