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Yale graduate teachers and researchers vote to unionize

Frankie Graziano
WNPR/Connecticut Public Radio

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Graduate teachers and researchers at Yale University overwhelmingly voted to unionize, according to results released Monday.

The final tally showed 91% of the more than 2,000 votes cast were in support of authorizing the formation of a bargaining unit, Local 33-UNITE HERE. It comes after decades of attempts to form a union, the first dating back to the early 1990s.

“Generations of grad workers have organized before us, and I'm really excited to finally win,” Ridge Liu, a graduate student in school's physics department, said in a written statement. He said graduate workers need better pay and health care, as well as grievance procedures.

Yale has seven days to file any objections. In a letter to the Yale community posted Monday, President Peter Salovey said “the university will now turn to bargaining in good faith with Local 33 to reach a contract.” The bargaining unit, he said, will include students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences who have teaching or research appointments and students in professional schools with teaching appointments.

Graduate students across the U.S., both at public and private institutions, have pushed in recent years to organize and bargain collectively. Columbia University, another Ivy League school, in 2018 agreed to begin contract negotiations with a union representing its graduate student teaching and research assistants, ending a long battle in which the university denied them the right to unionize.

In 2016, Yale challenged a bid by some of its graduate assistants to unionize, arguing to the National Labor Relations Board that graduate assistants are students and not employees.

Adam Waters, a graduate teacher in Yale's history department, said in a statement that COVID-19 highlighted “the precarity of our work and the need for stronger workplace protections." He noted how the work of graduate students “makes Yale work and we deserve a seat at the table through our union and a contract.”

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