Graduate student assistants at Loyola University at Chicago voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, they announced Tuesday. A total of 120 out of 210 eligible graduate assistants voted, with 71 voting for the union and 49 voting against it. Graduate students at Columbia University also have voted to form a union since the National Labor Relations Board ruled they could do so in a major decision in August; the ruling reversed past legal precedent against graduate student unions on private campuses. Columbia has said it’s challenging the election, and a similar vote at Harvard University proved inconclusive. Graduate workers at Duke University are currently holding a union election.
Funding has been a “critical issue” for graduate student employees at Loyola, where the average yearly salary is $18,000, according to information from SEIU. “With this vote, we’ve leveled the playing field for all Loyola graduate student workers,” Liz DiStefano, a graduate assistant in social psychology, said in a statement. “Together, we will negotiate better pay and decent health care so we can focus on our students and our studies without the distractions of struggling to buy groceries and pay rent.”
John Pelissero, Loyola’s provost, said in a statement that while the university is “disappointed with the result, we will work through the NLRB's processes and procedures to bargain a contract for the represented graduate assistants.”
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