Over the past year and a half, a group of graduate students at Penn has been organizing to form a union. This group is called Graduate Employees Together - University of Pennsylvania (GET UP). The process they have been going through has included forming a petitioning unit, advocating to the student body, and petitioning the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The goal of this process is for Penn graduate students who are paid by the University for teaching or research duties to be recognized as employees and therefore able to form a union.
On December 19, 2017, the NLRB ruled that Penn graduate students who are paid by the University are employees, and so have the right to unionize. At this point, the exact size of the union and the date of the election are unknown.
On Friday, February 16, GET UP rescinded their petition and is no longer negotiating to hold an election.
The two prior decisions that have the most impact on Penn are the NYU decision in 2014 and the Columbia University decision in 2016. These decisions by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) established the right for students in private universities to unionize.
The NYU decision was a ruling that ended years of litigation between the school and the union in favor of the union. This ruling established the right of graduate students at private universities to unionize.
The Columbia University decision reaffirmed that graduate students at private universities are employees, and therefore are able to unionize.
The University of Pennsylvania decision was issued on December 19, 2017, and references the Columbia decision in affirming that students engaged in instructional or research activities are to be considered employees, and shall be included in the unit.