Consistent Lack of Information and Transparency

Brief Overview

  • Dues for most students would likely be $500-700 a year, with no way to opt-out
  • Strikes during contract negotiations can adversely affect work or experiments, and even result in fines from the union
  • GET-UP has not released a detailed action plan or what issues they will prioritize
  • Arguments typically rely on divisive emotional rhetoric and lack hard data
  • No insight into how or why they are defining the bargaining group as all students, especially when several schools are vocally against unionization
  • The union purchased voter registration information to find out where graduate students live
  • Incredibly antagonistic to fellow students who decline to sign an authorization card or want to revoke their card

In-depth Overview

If we as graduate students decide to unionize, we need to be aware of all the possible positive and negative consequences of our decision. In order to create an informed opinion, we need to know exactly how GET-UP is planning on advocating for us, and details on what their advocacy will entail. However, GET-UP has failed to provide an action plan with clearly articulated solutions. If we are to transfer our rights to GET-UP, we need to know exactly how they plan on operating.

Union dues are not finalized until a contract is ratified, but based on dues/proposed dues at NYU, Temple, Cornell and GET-UP’s own estimates, we believe 1.5-2% of stipends is a reasonable assumption of fees. GET-UP argues that it has autonomy in setting member fees at Penn, however the amount of money collected must be sufficient to cover both GET-UP’s operational costs and per capita fees paid to AFT-PA ($11.03/month), AFT national ($19.30/month) and AFL-CIO ($0.55/month). It is important to note that most graduate students would qualify for paying half dues for AFT as our stipends are below the full due cut-off ($43,358). However, GET-UP has full authority to collect additional fees for their operational costs (such as their off-campus office in West Philly, buttons, flyers, etc. GET-UP has not released any financial information or proposed budget so it is impossible to say what exactly what is included in their operational costs, or how much more additional dues they would need to collect. We can estimate based on other unions, such as NYU, that they will need collect an additional 1-1.25% on top of our AFT/AFL-CIO dues.

Unions use the threat of a strike as leverage to extract concessions from the employer. However, strikes have the potential to severely impact our progress on our degrees, as not working would be more detrimental to research students than the university. GET-UP has not released any details about their stance on strikes, or how one would operate. If there is a strike, labor laws allow unions to legally fine members that break union bylaws and continue to work during a strike.

When pressed for concrete solutions to issues during panel sessions, GET-UP says solutions will be determined democratically once the union forms. However, we are not comfortable handing over our collective bargaining power based on a “to be determined” policy. We believe that hard data should back up any policy decision, but GET-UP has been using emotional and populist rhetoric as arguments for unionization, including claims that Penn and President Gutmann exploit students for gains, without providing any evidence.

There has also been a consistent lack of transparency about how GET-UP is running their campaign.  GET-UP has been visiting the homes of graduate students unannounced for the past several weeks. We have been vocally opposed to their recruitment tactics. GET-UP recently updated their website to state that they use purchased PA voter registration information to canvas student homes. There is no explanation for home visits or phone calls to non-PA registered voters or international students.

GET-UP is unilaterally determining who they want to represent without any input from any of the twelve schools at Penn. The recently released BGSA survey demonstrates that GET-UP did not sufficiently explore whether all schools want their representation.

BGSA survey

Furthermore, GET-UP began to collect authorization cards about a month before they published responses to the issues that graduate students face. The delay begs the question on why GET-UP began the process of unionization before understanding the needs and concerns of their fellow students.

Our friends and colleagues have also felt they were not fully informed when they signed GET-UP’s authorization cards. If you signed an authorization card, you have the legal right to revoke it, whether in person or via mail/email. However, GET-UP has been incredibly antagonist toward revoking cards. Students have been met with resistance and have been required to visit GET-UP’s off campus office to revoke their card, which is legally dubious. Their actions once again beg the question about why they have been so hostile to their fellow students who have changed their minds.