September 12, 2016
As you may know, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently ruled that students on appointment as teaching and research assistants at Columbia and at other private universities may seek union representation for their concerns as employees. A group of Columbia graduate students in favor of unionization, Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC-UAW), has affiliated with the United Automobile Workers (UAW). The UAW has petitioned the NLRB to hold an election in which students will vote on whether they want the union to represent their interests with respect to wages, hours, and other conditions of employment.
I recognize and respect that this important decision is yours to make, and I would like to stress how crucial it is that you vote. The result of the election will be determined by the majority of those who vote, yet the outcome will apply to all students who are considered to be part of the bargaining unit, both current and future ones. If you do not vote, you—and they—will be bound by the outcome nonetheless.
Hence, I encourage you to become acquainted with arguments on both sides of the issue of unionization, so that you may make a decision that best serves you academically, financially, and personally. Proponents of unionization have been presenting their case to potential voters for more than a year; you may want to examine the arguments put forth by those who question union representation as well. I would suggest consulting the NLRB’s ruling (including the dissenting opinion) and the Provost’s website on unionization, which includes frequently asked questions and other resources for students and faculty.
This will be a momentous decision, with the potential to transform the landscape of graduate education, both in this institution and nationally. I urge you to become an informed participant in the process.
Carlos J. Alonso, Dean
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences