February 3, 2022

Indiana University rejects graduate student worker request to hold union election

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Article origination IPB News
Graduate students at Indiana University Bloomington celebrate after delivering nearly 1,600 union cards and a request to hold a formal election.  - Photo courtesy of Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition

Graduate students at Indiana University Bloomington celebrate after delivering nearly 1,600 union cards and a request to hold a formal election.

Photo courtesy of Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition

Indiana University formally denied a request from roughly 1,600 graduate workers to hold a union election, contending they're primarily students, not staff.

In December, graduate student workers on the Bloomington campus asked the university to oversee a formal union election. They said after failed talks with the administration, unionizing seems the clearest path forward to negotiate for an end to student fees for workers and better pay and benefits. 

But in a response to the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition on Tuesday, the university said collective bargaining would not be “constructive” to their cause.


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IU policy currently recognizes some staff unions, but said graduate workers aren’t staff, but “student academic appointees” instead. It said, under that classification, they’re able to give graduate students more benefits than part-time staff. 

Cole Nelson, with the coalition, said they aren’t surprised by the denial, but disappointed. He said graduate workers will still continue unionization efforts – and the refusal may only bolster them.

“A rejection from the university and an outright denial of living experiences of graduate workers, I think enrages a lot of people,” Nelson said. 

Under Indiana law, public employees can form unions, but can’t strike and employers aren't required to recognize them.

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story referred to graduate workers as "academic appointees." For the purpose of clarity, we have changed that to "student academic appointees" to more accurately align with the university's designation.

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM.

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