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.
Throughout this process, GAPSA has been committed to the timely and accurate dissemination of information about the union process to all graduate students, so they can make informed decisions about what is best for them.
We will update this webpage as soon as more information is known.
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.
These FAQs are designed to provide a short summary of the NLRB decision, and information that is most pertinent to graduate students.
We highly recommend that students who are interested in the core legal arguments should read the NLRB decisions linked above.
Question: Who would be included in the union?
Answer: Students who are paid by the University on teaching or researching fellowships, and student workers whose duties include teaching or researching. Only certain schools are included though.
Question: Which graduate schools are included in this ruling?
Answer: This ruling only includes graduate students enrolled in the Annenberg School for Communication, the School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Design, the School of Social Policy and Practice, the Graduate School of Education, the School of Nursing, the Biomedical Graduate Studies within the Perelman School of Medicine, the Wharton School, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Students from the School of Dental Medicine, the Law School, the School of Veterinary Medicine, and the non research part of the Perelman School of Medicine are not included in the ruling, and so would not be included in the union.
Question: When is the election to form a union?
Answer: That date has not yet been determined.
Question: How will the elections be conducted?
Answer: Once a date and the scope of the union is announced, elections will be held in accordance with NRLB policy as stated on their website. More details will be announced soon, but essentially the union will be created if it receives a majority of votes cast. This means that regardless of your stance on unionization, it is imperative that you cast a vote in order for your voice to be heard.