Brief Overview

In-depth Overview

Strikes are what gives unions power, without which they have no leverage over their employer. In essence, a union uses the ability to disrupt the employer’s business in order gain an equal standing in negotiations.

However, a strike is only effective if it harms the employer more than the employee. During a strike, we would not get paid (as we would not be making progress toward our degrees), and GET-UP has not confirmed that it would provide a strike fund in order to compensate affected students.

What is even more concerning is that only 66% of members need to vote “yes” to authorize a strike. Typically unions require 80%  to call a strike, but GET-UP set the limit much lower. What the extremely low threshold means is that many schools could vote overwhelmingly “no”, and still be forced on strike. For example, schools like BGS and SEAS that represent 25% and 15% of the PhD population, could vote 85% against the strike and still lose.

Research students should be particularly concerned about strikes. While GET-UP’s constitution allows researchers to cross a picket line (see Appendix C), they can only do so in order to prevent the loss of work, not to make progress on their degrees. Researchers could not start new experiments or continue regular work.


For those of us whose main focus is research, the possibility of a strike is terrifying. Being prevented from continuing research, particularly for those in the sciences and engineering departments, would have an incredibly negative impact on us, not the school. Research and progression to getting a PhD go hand in hand, and any delay caused by an outside force is simply not warranted.

GET-UP likes to claim that strikes are rare, but for example graduate students at the University of Oregon went on strike for 8 days. Unions are also legally allowed to fine members who cross the picket line to work.  While we could renounce our union membership before a potential strike, we are still required to pay union dues, and we would lose the ability to vote in any union matters (such as contracts and strikes).

For graduate researchers, imagine not being able to do research for a week (or more). Not only will our on degrees suffer, but collaborations, funding, and science itself will be impacted. We at No Penn Union are not overstating the fact that a graduate student union strike honestly frightens us.