6/25/17 – Statement Regarding GET-UP’s attacks on No Penn Union’s Counsel
Recently, there have been conflicting reports and confusion surrounding No Penn Union’s relationship with attorney Wally Zimolong. To assist No Penn Union in navigating the complex world of labor law, we consulted with an attorney, Wally Zimolong.
Mr. Zimolong provided his services to NPU pro bono and did not receive compensation from NPU or any outside group for his legal work. Mr. Zimolong’s services did not come with the condition of adopting his political agenda and his views were neither relevant to nor reflective of NPU. What was relevant was his knowledge of federal labor law and union organizing campaigns. GET-UP’s representation by the American Federation of Teachers does not come with similar conditions, as union dues often support political lobbying.
After NPU announced it had retained Mr. Zimolong purely for legal consultation, GET-UP launched a series of vicious personal attacks on NPU’s choice of counsel and students opposed to unionization. Instead of focusing on issues relevant to whether students should support GET-UP, these attacks focused on the personal opinions, perceived or otherwise, of their targets.
NPU is a firmly apolitical student organization with the singular goal of informing Penn students about the potential consequences of a pan-graduate school union with GET-UP/AFT. GET-UP hoped to delegitimize NPU by asserting that Mr. Zimolong’s beliefs are inextricably tied to NPU’s cause, a claim that is sensationalist and wholly untrue. Given GET-UP’s agenda, it became clear that continued association with Mr. Zimolong would only detract from NPU’s purpose. Mr. Zimolong agreed that dissociating from NPU would be in the best interest of the students involved. Therefore, Mr. Zimolong is no longer outside counsel to NPU.
GET-UP/AFT would rather derail the debate by focusing on the political views of Mr. Zimolong than engage in legitimate discussion about unionization. A student union would impact departmental funding, stipends, benefits, administrative bureaucracy, student government and program prestige – issues entirely unrelated to politics. This tactic of misinformation, distraction and avoidance is common to the union group’s campaign. When asked questions, GET-UP consistently responds with rhetoric. Though the majority of students in the Biomedical Graduate Studies school have signed NPU’s petition stating they do not support unionization with GET-UP, the union group refuses to acknowledge the petition. GET-UP also has declined attending student government sponsored informational panel sessions – citing preference for one-on-one conversations. What is important is whether a union is right for the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate schools and students. NPU will remain focused on this issue. On the other hand, GET-UP has made it clear that it will seek to win an election by any means necessary.
6/25/17 – Our Ongoing Search for Legal Counsel
Just like GET-UP, we need to be able to come to the table with legal counsel or risk being unprepared.
Unlike GET-UP, however, we do not have outside financial backing, so our search for legal counsel hinges on earning pro-bono support.
As a result, we accepted attorney Wally Zimolong’s offer for free representation. This was not an endorsement of his personal views, nor access to any funding from agencies like the Center for Independent Employees, and despite ending our week-long association with Mr. Zimolong yesterday, we graciously thank Mr. Zimolong for his time.
We would like to be clear that our search for legal representation is ongoing in our efforts against GET-UP’s forceful attempts to impose unionization on all graduate schools at Penn.
A union that preaches a democratic vote process should not ignore a majority’s stance against them (see: BGS majority signs no-union petition). A union that preaches a democratic vote process should not allow their closed-circle leadership to preemptively decide to exclude SEAS and Wharton graduate schools from a proposed bargaining unit, without even allowing their own members to vote.
If they don’t listen to us now, will they listen later?
6/19/17 – We Have Legal Representation
One of the biggest problems we have had in our fight against unwarranted unionization is our lack of professional legal help. We are graduate students, not lawyers, and we do not have the time or knowledge to navigate the complex labor laws. GET-UP has the full legal force of the AFT behind them, which they have not been afraid to use to silence our message. Penn is legally unable to provide any assistance to us. Other students have come to us asking what they could do legally to prevent GET-UP from continuing to harass them, but we could not offer any legal advice. So what can we do, as graduate students who simply want a voice, when the AFT is actively opposing us and Penn can’t provide any help?
We needed legal help, but there is no way we could afford a lawyer on our on. We reached out to Wally Zimolong, a local lawyer who has extensive experience with the NLRB and the unionization process. After speaking to Mr. Zimolong, we are excited to announce that he will be representing us and any other student in our fight against the ongoing harassment of our fellow students by GET-UP and AFT employees. With the legal backing of Mr. Zimolong, we finally have the ability to give our colleagues a stronger voice during the unionization process..
Ever since the beginning of our campaign, we have prided ourselves on transparency, something GET-UP has yet to demonstrate. Bringing in outside legal counsel is a massive step, but one that should not be taken lightly. Mr. Zimolong contacted the Center for Independent Employees (CIE), which has agreed to pay for his legal fees and any associated costs for his representation. We will be continuing to post any and all costs, in line with our initial transparency efforts.
6/14/17 – Major Petition Update!
Over 50% of BGS has signed our petition against unionization! It is now clear that the majority of students within BGS do not want unionization, and GET-UP should respect the democratic decision of their peers, and remove BGS from the bargaining unit. The majority of BGS has spoken, and GET-UP should respect their right to refrain from collective bargaining. Check out the breakdown by BGS program below! If you are a BGS student, definitely contact GET-UP and request that BGS is removed from the bargaining unit (firstname.lastname@example.org).
6/13/17 – NLRB Hearing Starts Tomorrow!
The public hearings about GET-UP’s petition for a union recognition election start 10 am tomorrow (June 14th) at Regional NLRB office located at 615 Chestnut street Suite 710. As students who are not part of the union movement, we do not have the ability to participate or have our voices heard in this hearing. But we can still sit in the audience and observe the proceedings. The regional director of the NLRB, Dennis Walsh, is the sole entity that decides if the proposed unit is appropriate or not, based on the proceedings of the hearing. Members of No Penn Union will be attending to observe and listen. Contact us if you’re interested in attending. Feel free to contact the regional NLRB office (ask to speak with the Regional Director or Assistant to the Regional Director if you have any questions over the process and how you have your voice heard). If believe that the bargaining unit is being gerrymandered, definitely call the NLRB office and ask to speak Dennis Walsh (Regional Director).
6/7/17 – Petition Results Released!
While some might dismiss us as a small group, 550 PhD students have signed our petition! We have only had the petition up about two months, and the response has been amazing. We simply spread our petition via word of mouth and email, and didn’t have to harass people at their homes or buy the voter registration data to obtain student personal information. Thank you to everyone who has supported us in our fight for fair representation! Check out our petition results here!
6/6/17 – GET-UP Continues to Refuse to Consider the Wishes of Hundreds of Students Who Have Signed Our Petition
As many of you know, GET-UP has gerrymandered the bargaining unit to exclude SEAS and Wharton, but not BGS. They have provided no evidence about why they decided to exclude certain schools. Our own data (which will be released soon) demonstrates that SEAS, Wharton, and BGS were the three most schools that are most against unionization. By cutting out SEAS and Wharton, but not BGS, GET-UP hopes they can gerrymander the bargaining unit to maximize their unit size and dues paying members. We realized that GET-UP is ignoring the wishes of BGS students by including their school against their will. We sought to meet with GET-UP to help BGS students have their voice heard, however GET-UP is refusing to meet with us.
Approximately 330 BGS students signed our petition as of today (~43%), including a super majority is some programs. Yet GET-UP refuses to meet with us, even if we extend an invite to the BGS student government. They have yet to offer any evidence that the majority of students in BGS support GET-UP. Why do we want a union that clearly won’t even consider the concerns of the very students it seeks to represent? Read more on our Facebook page!
6/3/17 – Update on Email Response From GET-UP and Our Response
We received a reply to our request to GET-UP, to meet and understand their reasoning behind the inclusion of BGS. None of questions were answered so we replied with the same requests. Check our their response to our initial email, and our reply on Facebook.
6/1/17 – Update on Petition
As many of you know, GET-UP has filed for an election and has unilaterally excluded SEAS and Wharton but included BGS , Annenberg School for Communication, Graduate School of Education, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, and School of Social Policy and Practice. However, there has been little public transparency or data to support these decisions. We have never been against unionization, we simply believe that each school should have the right to decide for themselves what is best for them. No election has been scheduled yet, and the NLRB still has to approve the bargaining unit proposed by GET-UP. It is important to note that there is precedent for a bargaining unit to be amended before an election, including the recently filed petition at the University of Chicago.
We have over 500 graduate student signatures our petition, a significant portion of which are BGS students, and we are using the results to advocate for the signers. On Wednesday morning, we went to the NLRB office to submit our petition and to our disappointment and surprise, they refused to accept it or even use it to cross-reference revoked cards submitted by GET-UP. Until we can clarify things with the NLRB, we have reached out to GET-UP (see the photo on Facebook) to discuss the exclusion of BGS from the unit. We are also pursuing other channels to protect the desires of students signing our petition.
We plan to continue to use the petition to demonstrate a lack of support for unionization in as many ways as we can, including any future hearings scheduled between GET-UP, Penn and the NLRB. Because we do not belong to any of these entities, it is unclear how much influence we will actually have. But we’re working on it and will provide updates soon.
5/30/17 – GET-UP Files for Election, Gerrymanders Bargaining Unit
GET-UP has filed their petition for the election to the NLRB. From the beginning, GET-UP has been trying to include every graduate program under its union, despite heavy push-back from SEAS, Wharton, and BGS. We have always been against a pan-graduate school union as it would force together multiple programs that have little, if anything, in common. School-specific unionization could be very helpful for some schools/programs, but each school should be able to decide what is right for itself.
However, GET-UP realized that it could not win an election if it tried to include multiple programs that are not pro-unionization. By cutting out SEAS and Wharton, but not BGS, GET-UP has gerrymandered the bargaining unit to give themselves the highest likely-hood of success. Over 90% of the signatures on our petition came from BGS, Wharton, and SEAS. We will be releasing the results of our petition shortly, and if GET-UP values transparency, they will release the breakdown of authorization cards as well. The BGS and Wharton student governments also commissioned polls that showed that only 11% and 7% respectively wanted unionization. It is clear that GET-UP simply removed two out of the three large schools that do not favor unionization in hopes of maximizing both their unit size and chances of winning. It is simply not democratic to force a program to be part of a larger organization just because it can be out-voted.
5/01/17 – Ongoing Censorship Of Our Message
We’ve had our posters stolen and defaced so we decided to use publicly available TVs on three floors of BRB. The AFT apparently didn’t like that very much, so they threatened to press labor law violations against the university in order to force our slide to be taken down.
Why do we want to be represented by an organization that feels the first step is to threaten legal action? A grad student union should be run for students and exclusively by students. No other organization, including the AFT, should be playing any role.
We are tired of having our message censored.
4/19/17 – Posters Being Removed
We have recently started to put up posters and over the past few days, several have gone missing. Today we found one of the posters in the trash can. We understand that unionization is a hot-button issue, but censoring someone’s message is not the way to produce constructive dialogue.
On the bright side, whoever did this at least placed it in the recycle bin.
4/3/17 – Petition Against Pan-Graduate School Unionization
One of our core beliefs is that a pan-graduate school union cannot represent the diverse interests of all twelve graduate schools at Penn. Currently, the bargaining group is being defined by GET-UP with little to no input from the individual programs. We believe that each graduate program should be able to democratically decide whether or not they want to be potentially represented by GET-UP.
We have partnered with another student group, GETDN, in order to give graduate students a voice. GETDN was recently started by fellow students independently of No Penn Union and has provided invaluable support and assistance.
Our goal is to use a petition to collect individual graduate student responses from which we will determine the percentage of students within each graduate program who do not want to be part of the GET-UP Union. We will compile the responses and use them to advocate on our behalf to GET-UP, the University of Pennsylvania and/or NLRB. We hope you become as informed as possible in making your decision. This petition is not a vote in an official union election. As far as we know, GET-UP has not submitted a petition for an election to the NLRB. If there is an election, we URGE YOU TO VOTE.
3/22/17 – GET-UP Planning To Visit The Homes of Graduate Students
A concerned student has sent us a message that GET-UP has announced plans to continue visiting the homes of graduate students, despite numerous complaints. We do not know how they have obtained the personal information of graduate students, but we continue to demand that GET-UP refrain from these intrusive home visits. No other organization at Penn tries to obtain members through visiting the personal addresses of students. See below for the email sent to GET-UP members.
3/21/17 – GAPSA Holding Unionization Panel on March 27
GAPSA is holding a panel featuring us, GET-UP, and several faculty members on March 27 from 6-8! Check out the Facebook event for details. Come by if you are concerned about unionization and/or have any questions!
3/19/17 – GET-UP Visiting Homes Unannounced
We have recently received several complaints of a particularly disturbing turn of events: GET-UP union representatives are visiting graduate students’ homes in order to get signatures.
How GET-UP has gotten the personal addresses of graduate students is not known. Regardless, it is completely inappropriate for GET-UP to bother graduate students at their home. We are publicly demanding that GET-UP stop these intrusive recruitment tactics and refrain from contacting students outside of school.
3/17/17 – Kickoff Meeting Notes and New Flyers!
Transparency is key to being an open and honest organization so we will be publishing our meeting notes and presentations every time we have them. Check out of kickoff meeting below!
Thanks to everyone who came to our first meeting yesterday! We had a great discussion about how to best approach our reach-out efforts and how to target our message. Right now, our biggest need is to simply get the word out as GET-UP has a nine month head start on us. We are currently looking for volunteers to head our reach out efforts to the different schools that GET-UP is targeting. For more information, feel free to download our meeting notes/presentation here. If you want to be involved, please email or contact us!
We have also created several flyers! Feel free to hang them up to help spread the word!
3/14/2017 – Penn Releases New Benefits, GET-UP Tries to Claim Credit
Many of us received an email today outlined three new benefits for graduate students:
- All full-time graduate and professional students will have free access to the Pottruck Health & Fitness Center, Sheerr Pool, and Fox Fitness Center.Currently, graduate and professional students need to purchase separate memberships to access the University’s fitness facilities.
- Penn will commit $1M in annual funding for need-based grants to PhD students in good standing to help defray the costs of extended health insurance, as well as dependent insurance and daycare for PhDs with spouses and children.
- Subsidize 50% of the cost of Penn Dental insurance.
Soon after release, GET-UP implied that the union was the reason for these new benefits. However, these benefits have been the works for nearly a year, long before GET-UP existed. The new benefits were created due to the collaboration between the administration and students who voiced concerns, not any pressure from the union. Once again, it is apparent that Penn is willing and able work directly with us, and we do not need to pay GET-UP for representation.
3/12/2017 – First Meeting This Thursday!
We will be having our first meeting (with free food!) this Thursday (3/16) from 6-730 in Room 305 at the Grad Center at 3615 Locust Walk on campus! We will be discussing strategy, union laws, and our plan for the next couple weeks! Come by if you want to be involved!
No Penn Union is a voluntary team of Penn graduate students that are concerned about the efforts and goals of GET-UP/AFT/AFL-CIO’s unionization efforts. Our hope is that we can clear up any misinformation and address concerns that other graduate students have about the unionization attempt. We believe that unionization will lead to a severe and negative impact on our academic and scholarly pursuits.