solidarity across unions

Monday, August 28, 2006

Student unions gather 

by Josh Cornfield
Metro Philadelphia
AUG 11, 2006

UNIVERSITY CITY The graduate students union at the University of Pennsylvania, which has long fought with the university for recognition, is co-hosting a conference of 30 grad unions from around North America this weekend.

The 15th-annual Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions (CGEU) conference begins today with workshops and seminars on topics including contract negotiation, lobbying and media relations. Organizer Bill Herman said the conference will draw some 100 union members from as far away as Vancouver.

Grad unions from Rutgers and Temple, both recognized by their universities in contract negotiations, are co-hosting the event. Penn's Graduate Employees Together-UPenn (GET-UP) is still trying to get the same from Penns administration.

"I think it would take a lot of things," Herman said of getting Penns recognition. "External political pressure is certainly beneficial...It takes sitting down with the administration and talking about what unionization would mean."

Herman said GET-UP takes some of the credit for salary increases for its grad student workers even though the union has never met as a group with Penn's administration.

"When students work together [the administration] will occasionally listen to what they have to say," Herman said.

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The Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions is a loose-knit coalition of labor unions in the USA and Canada that represents graduate students employed as teachers, researchers, and administrative staff.