PSU Graduate Students Reject Unionization

According to preliminary results, Penn State graduate assistants have voted to reject joining the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

If the Coalition of Graduate Employees convinced a majority of voting graduate assistants to support unionization, a new PSEA-affiliate union would have become the exclusive representative of all graduate assistants—even those voting against representation.  

While Coalition representatives blamed the “Graduate School’s outrageous anti-union campaign,” many students consistently voiced reservations about unionization. One graduate assistant, Michael Cronin, even filed a motion with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to intervene, stating:

This whole union effort has been branded as student empowerment, student choice…Yet, it’s very puzzling that future graduate students, who haven’t even decided to apply yet, are being deprived of their ability to freely choose.

A public-sector union that gains monopoly bargaining power as an exclusive representative is not required to stand for re-election. As a result, many public employees inherit unions they never voted for and face a cumbersome process to initiate another vote. Penn State graduate assistants voted 1,438 to 950 to avoid this outcome, and restrictive working conditions we highlighted before the vote.

Unfortunately, most public sector union members have never exercised this democratic right.

Less than 1 percent of Pennsylvania teachers voted for their union representation, with 93 percent of unions certified in the 1970s. This trend extends to all Pennsylvania government unions.  

Click here for a map of teachers denied voting rights.

Democratic processes require frequent and guaranteed elections, which is why 70 percent of union members support worker voting rights. The Penn State unionization effort should cause public sector workers to question why they are denied the voting rights they deserve.