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Yale Grad Students Unionize

February 24, 2017

Graduate assistants in eight of nine departments that held union elections at Yale University voted to unionize, they announced late Thursday, but the eligibility of some uncounted ballots in two of the eight 'yes' departments remains challenged. Yale is the third campus where graduate students have formed unions following a major decision by the National Labor Relations Board last year saying that teaching and research assistants on private campuses are entitled to collective bargaining.

In an unusual “micro-unit” strategy that Yale's administration opposed, teaching assistants in East Asian languages and literatures, English, geology and geophysics, history, art history, math, physics, political science and sociology all held separate elections within their programs. A majority of students approved the union bid in all departments except physics, based on counted ballots, but there are additional, uncounted votes in East Asian languages and political science. Whether those votes will count has yet to be decided by the NLRB. The new graduate employee union is affiliated with Unite Here.

Pro-union graduate students described the outcome as a victory but Lynn Cooley, dean of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said in a statement that the election results “demonstrate the extent of graduate student division on the question of unionization.” Even with the micro-unit strategy “that so many have criticized as being un-inclusive,” she said, “the union lost one of its own hand-picked departments, and failed to clearly win two others.” Yale is “closely examining” the outcome and will soon respond more fully, Cooley said.

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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