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UM grad students move closer to unionizing despite chancellor’s letter

Graduate student workers on the University of Missouri campus are one step closer to unionizing, despite a letter from Chancellor Hank Foley suggesting such a union would not be recognized.

ABC 17 News has reported in the past that some graduate workers say they’re unhappy with their compensation as employees of the University.

They have also expressed concern with the availability of affordable housing, childcare and their once-cancelled insurance.

Today, the Graduate Professional Council announced a union election date set for April 18 and 19.

Here is the announcement:

“Dear Mizzou graduate student employees, Pursuant to GPC General Assembly Resolutions1516-05and1516-08, the Graduate Professional Council would like to inform graduate student employees that there will be an election authorizing union representation for collective bargaining, to be held onMonday, April 18th, andTuesday, April 19th.

Polling stations will be located in both Memorial Student Union and the MU Student Center on both days, and will be open between7:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Student or other photographic identification will be required to vote, and active electioneering is prohibited within both buildings. The election will be conducted by the League of Women Voters, a neutral third party.

GPC encourages all graduate student employees to participate in the election.” – End of message

In an email from the Chancellor’s office was sent, questioning the legality of a union vote.

Here is the text of that email:

“Dear graduate student – We are aware you recently received an email from the Graduate Professional Council notifying you that there will be an electionApril 18 and 19with the intent to pursue unionization. We are surprised by this announcement as we met with GPC leadership as recently asTuesdayand they did not indicate their plans to move forward with any kind of vote at this time.It is surprising, and disappointing, that at the same time MU administration has responded to graduate student requests for improved communication that this announcement was made without any consultation with us.

Moreover, we have been working in good faith with this organization on key issues, including stipends, graduate student housing, and their desire to organize. In recent conversations, we indicated there was some question regarding the legality of unionization among graduate students, and until this question is resolved, it would be inappropriate to move forward. To this end, any vote to unionize at this time cannot be considered binding or recognized by the university.

Finally, the decision to unionize carries both significant pros and cons for our graduate students, and we feel it is in your best interest to be fully educated on the ramifications of unionization. Should graduate student leaders decide to proceed with such a vote at this time despite the lack of consultation with MU administration, and should such a vote indicate that graduate students would like to pursue a union, university leadership will begin an educational campaign to ensure that all graduate students impacted by this decision will be knowledgeable about what this means at the University of Missouri.

We continue to have the best interest of all our students in mind, and hope we can continue discussions on this important topic. – (signed) Interim Chancellor Hank Foley – End of message

Eric Scott, the co-chair of the Coalition of Graduate Students said the message sends a mixed signal.

“It’s unfortunate that many graduate workers may be shocked or confused by that email,” said Scott. “I think that there were some unfortunate miscommunications that have occurred as a result of it. I do believe that campus administration is acting in good faith with us.”

Scott went on to say the election will continue as planned, and says he believes the University system will recognize the vote by student workers, should they decide to form a union.

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