Graduates Entitled To Decide Now

At A Glance

  • Latest Update (2/17/18):
    • The union petition was withdrawn
    • Now is the time to approach administration, departments, and faculty with better methods to improve our graduate lives and the community at large
      • In Amy Gutman’s letter on 2/16/18 immediate opportunities to address concerns and effect change have been presented:

        We aspire to sustain Penn’s place as a global leader in graduate and professional education. We can do this only as full partners with our outstanding students and their elected leadership. Moving forward, we are committed to redoubling our efforts to learn more about the evolving needs of our graduate and professional students and to develop new initiatives that shape the graduate education and student life of the future. To reaffirm this commitment, the Graduate Student Center will host a series of conversations in which graduate and professional students will be invited to share your views about the issues that are most important to you, especially regarding diversity, mentoring, and harassment. More information about this series will be posted soon on the Graduate Student Center website <>.

      • We can also effect change immediately through GSEG and other student initiatives to interact directly with departments and the administration
      • On the personal level, there are resources (subset shown here) we should be aware of and work with the administration to fill any gaps:
        • Special Services Unit 215.898.6600
        • Penn Women’s Center 215.898.8611
        • Counseling and Psychological Services 215.898.7021
          • (actually tell them if your having issues in your lab/work environment, please do not feel embarrassed or concerned, this resource is here to protect and help, they can direct you to additional resources to effect change)
        • Sexual Violence Investigative Officer 215.898.2887
  • What was going on?!?
    Some Penn graduate students with legal backing were trying to unionize and form a single union than encapsulates all Penn graduate students across all schools and departments. We need to be informed, read more…. Please check out our sister organization No Penn Union for additional latest updates. And check out the GSEG hosted info session on unionization here.  UPDATE: The NLRB made their ruling on 12/19/17:  Please find the ruling decision pdf (with the detailed decision notes from Dennis P. Walsh) here. The original bargaining unit was expanded: 

    All graduate students who provide instructional services and/or perform research,including but not limited to Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, ResearchAssistants, Research Fellows and Pre-Doctoral Trainees employed by theEmployer in the following schools: Annenberg School for Communication,Biomedical Graduate Studies, School of Design, Graduate School of Education,School of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Schoolof Nursing, School of Social Policy and Practice, and Wharton School; excludingall other employees, educational fellowship recipients, office clerical employees,guards and supervisors as defined in the Act.

  • Below is an excerpt from a letter from the provost on 12/20/17: 

    Last night (12/19/17) the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a ruling that will allow eligible graduate students to vote on whether you want to be represented by GET-UP, a union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. The students eligible to vote in this election are graduate students who provided instructional services and/or performed research in 2017, or will engage in these activities in the 2018 Spring Semester, in the following schools and programs: Annenberg School for Communication, School of Arts and Sciences, Biomedical Graduate Studies, School of Design, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Graduate School of Education, School of Nursing, School of Social Policy and Practice, and the Wharton School.

    The NLRB has yet to schedule an election date.  More information on the timing of the election and the places to vote will be provided as soon as it is available.

    At this time, I strongly encourage all eligible graduate students to learn more about the critical issues involved, to consult widely with each other and your faculty mentors, and above all to vote when the date arrives. All graduate students who are eligible to vote will be bound by the results of the election, even if you do not agree with them – and even if you do not vote.

  • What can a union affect? 
    • Pay (current stipend vs union stipend with unknown yearly percentage dues).
    • Maternity/Paternity Leave – Temple’s grad student union affiliated with AFT only gets 5 days paid maternity leave.
    • Working hours (current flexible hours vs. possible union set hours, could affect conference deadlines).
    • Healthcare (current healthcare which we all have vs. whatever the union negotiates).
    • Insurance (more liability if you unintentionally break equipment or a device,)
    • Vacation time (no flexibility, could affect VISA renewal periods)
    • Coursework (number of courses, mandatory training sessions, teaching requirements may change)
  • Who will be affected?
    You! Why? If you are a graduate student paid by the university you will be automatically enrolled. Once your school is enrolled it can not easily opt out of the existing union. However a school can easily opt in if it is not initially a part of the bargaining unit.  Those involved:

    • Doctoral students
    • Master students (receiving any income from university)
    • Graduate Teaching Assistants
    • Graduate Research Assistants
    • International and American Citizens
  • What is going to happen?
    With no established union contract, the future is truly uncertain.
  • How could this affect me?
    Union negotiations with Penn may drastically change the current working relationship between graduate students and the University.

    • An example: Given the pro-union stipulations, the university could require that every quarter/semester ’employee’ graduates have mandatory performance reviews with consequences reflecting a poorly performing ’employee’ during ‘unproductive’ periods. Realistically, there are periods where graduates produce no output that is financially beneficial (personal edification) to the university as an employees would and must at all times. 
  • How can I help?
    1. Be informed  2. VOTE! and please VOTE NO  3. After being informed… Help us help you please sign up!.
  • Why Should I Vote No Union?
    We feel that not all other alternatives to a union have been explored, and rushing to form a union this semester (Spring 2017 April, May vote) with the uncertainty of a contract and ability to represent the entire graduate student body (change in working conditions/hours, stipend, possibility of lockouts of labs and facilities of graduates if union and administration disagreements were to seriously escalate: its unreasonable to assume that this is an impossibility if a union-employer relationship is established.) This could have serious negative outcomes and therefore is not responsible.  Lets stop and think, and see if we can first find a better alternative to a union, one that meets the needs but does not require outside influence as the proposed union strategy requires.
  • Example at Cornell (source:
    • Students at Cornell tried and were unsuccessful at unionizing, their pro-union group CGSU,  was ultimately very unhappy with AFT as they felt they were ultimately not given the voice they were promised when they disagreed with AFT.
    • AFT followed a ‘one size fit all’ model that sidelined certain students  overruled them when they voiced their concerns and issues.
    • AFT model Completely ignored the concept of ‘recognition election’ which would allow students to make a choice if they want to be a part of the unionization effort demonstrating extreme ignorance and absolute ignorance.
    • AFT Organizing Model This model relies almost exclusively on “management” and “assessment” of membership by pairing union members with staff organizers to seek out graduate workers in the bargaining unit for two-on-one conversations. Rather than building collective power via informing, empowering and engaging, this model simply inscribes subordinate relations within the 
  • Oops! I signed up, but now that I know more I regret this, what can I do?
    You have the right to ask for your card back. Then please email us at or the contact form with your experience.
  • Check out the GSEG hosted Unionization info session with participation from GETUP, GETDN and No Penn Union on this tab

Who We Are: 

We are graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania who empathize with issues raised by other activists students. We are dedicated to find viable solutions that raise the quality of life for all University of Pennsylvania Graduate Students.  We believe that the proposed union structure may not be the best way to bring the administration to the table and simultaneously serve the community at large. We are dedicated to finding viable alternatives that would address the current issues. In addition we recognize the advantage of having an institution that serves as an unbiased support structure for graduate students and would like to work with students and administration to explore alternative options to a union before establishing the proposed union. Please visit the FAQ for a snapshot of the situation.

What We Believe: 

We believe that we are in an amazing university with many talented academics. We believe that everyone should have high quality of life here at UPenn. We would like to see work conditions improve for all graduate students. However we believe that for graduate students, having a Union is not the best (and is certainly not the only) way.

We Need Your Help

Become informed, VOTE NO. 

If you would like to help us on the ground, please contact us as we need help informing grads of our existence and the alternatives we present.

When is the vote?

The NLRB has yet to schedule an election date.  More information on the timing of the election and the places to vote will be provided as soon as it is available.