Skepticism About Impact on Student Issues

Brief Overview

  • Many of our benefits are already better than what unionized schools have
  • 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
  • Grievance procedures are limited in what they can accomplish
  • Other students would be union representatives and would most likely be present during all grievance proceedings
  • Sensitive grievances might not be handled properly by union representatives

In-depth Overview

Graduate students face many issues, but there is no evidence that GET-UP has fully explored existing channels to resolve these concerns.  Many of the issues that GET-UP raises, such as dental insurance or family benefits, are already better than what other schools offer, including unionized programs. While there is always room for improvement, GET-UP has not released evidence to suggest that unionization can help, or what alternative paths have been tried. GAPSA (which has frequently been called “toothless” by GET-UP) has been shown to deliver key benefits, such as dental and gym memberships (these were in the pipeline for over a year, long before GET-UP exerted any pressure on the university).

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.

Grievances (and subsequent timely resolution) is an important issue that requires detailed analysis of any proposed model or system. We can gain insight into how GET-UP would approach grievance procedures by looking into their internal union process and how NYU wrote their grievance method. A “grievance” is defined as anything that violates the terms of the contract with the University. Terms that are not set forth in a contract (like shifting graduation requirements, academic issues, etc) are not covered.

Internal GET-UP Procedures

Members can bring charges against any other member (i.e. fellow students) for anything that is “against the good and welfare of GET-UP” (Subsection A1: Determining and Filing Charges). What is considered “against the good and welfare” is not substantiated, meaning that it can easily be abused. The hearing panel for the accused is staffed by other students (who can appoint themselves) and has no mechanism to prevent bias. What is even more troubling is that the hearing panel can unilaterally dismiss the charge, without any chance of direct appeal by the accuser. It is easy to imagine that the grievance system can be used to punish dissenting students and/or used to stop valid complaints from affecting the leadership.

NYU Grievance Procedure (See Article XX)

All grievances must be filed within 15 days of occurrence, or else they will be waived.

  1. Discuss the grievance with appropriate faculty/admin. Time: 10 days
  2. If unresolved, submit complaint in writing to the Department Dean/Chair/Office of Labor Relations leading to a meeting between the school and the union. Time: 20 days
  3. If still unresolved, appeal to the Office of the Provost in writing. The union will then meet with the Provost. Time: 35 days
  4. If still unresolved, the university or the union can take the grievance to arbitration (via American Arbitration Association). Time: 30+ days

A union representative will be the student’s advocate in this process and the union has the right to insert itself at any step in the process. What is concerning is that the union rep would most likely be a fellow student. If the problem is sensitive in nature and/or involves a peer, it could lead to a situation where the privacy of the person filing the grievance could be compromised. Furthermore, many sensitive issues require formal training in order to properly handle the grievance in question. It is unlikely that a fellow student would have the training and experience necessary to correctly address a sensitive grievance. While GET-UP has stressed that their contract will include anonymity during grievance procedures, no other contract to our knowledge contains such a clause.