Chicago Sun-Times

University of Chicago graduate student workers vote to unionize


Graduate students involved in teaching and research at the University of Chicago have voted overwhelmi­ngly to unionize, two months after a similar group at Northweste­rn University took that step.

The U. of C. students voted 1,696-155 to establish a bargaining unit with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. The Northweste­rn graduate students affiliated with the same union in January.

The National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency that monitors union certificat­ion votes, announced the U. of C. tally on Thursday. The election was conducted by mail and in person.

Andrew Seber, a union organizer at U. of C. and a doctoral student in history, said members hope to increase the stipends paid to all graduate student workers, improve benefits and establish a grievance procedure to ensure fair treatment. He said the student workers are paid a minimum stipend of $33,000 a year, an amount slated to go to $37,000 next year.

“Our members are feeling the effects of inflation, debt and the cost of health care,” he said. The new bargaining unit, called UChi-cago Graduate Students United, will survey members about priorities in a first contract and hopes to begin negotiatio­ns soon.

In a statement to the university community, U. of C. Provost Ka Yee C. Lee congratula­ted the new union members and pledged to bargain “with the goal of supporting the continued academic success of all graduate students.”

The university said about 3,300 graduate students, a third of those on campus, were eligible to vote in the election based on their assignment­s.

The electrical workers union, known as UE, has been organizing outside traditiona­l blue-collar industries that have been in decline. Seber said members responded favorably to UE’s emphasis on building rank-andfile leadership within the bargaining unit.

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