Union Representation

Updated statement from Vice President for University Relations, Joel M. Malina

May 29, 2018

Statement on certification of the March 2017 graduate assistant election results:

We are pleased that in accordance with independent Arbitrator Howard Edelman’s prior decision, the March 2017 graduate student election result has been certified. The final tally, including the small number of absentee and challenged ballots, resulted in a 867 to 941 vote against unionization. The Arbitrator also clarified his decision, confirming that the Union cannot file a new petition for unionization until May 25, 2019.

The daily contributions of all our graduate students to the university’s teaching, research and engagement mission are an indispensable part of what makes Cornell a unique and vital institution. With the outcome of the March 2017 election now final, it is time for all of us to move forward, together, to continue our work to further strengthen graduate education at Cornell.

Statement from Dean of the Graduate School, Barbara A. Knuth

April 2017

To the Cornell Community:

Cornell Graduate Students United (CGSU), a group of graduate students interested in achieving labor union representation for graduate assistants at Cornell, is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). CGSU/AFT/NYSUT filed for a union representation election in Spring ’17.

On March 27 and 28, 2017, a secret ballot election was held to determine if CGSU/AFT/NYSUT would serve as the exclusive collective bargaining representative for Cornell University Graduate Assistants on the Ithaca and Geneva campuses who hold titles under University Policy 1.3.

About 80 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, with 919 voting against representation by CGSU/AFT/NYSUT, 856 voting for representation by CGSU/AFT/NYSUT, and 81 ballots unresolved (challenged) based on questions of voter eligibility.

Although neither the University nor CGSU/AFT/NYSUT have asked the Arbitrator overseeing the election process to resolve the challenged ballots, the most likely outcome of such a process, given the current margin, would be that a majority of those who voted decided against the formation of a union. 

CGSU/AFT/NYSUT retains the right to seek a future election whether the March ’17 election remains unresolved or if it is formally determined that the majority of graduate students voted against unionization.  Cornell is currently negotiating with CGSU/AFT/NYSUT for an updated pre-election agreement building off of the May 2016 Agreement signed by both parties to provide parameters for a mutually respectful relationship through another union campaign and election should CGSU/AFT/NYSUT file another election petition.

Information about graduate student benefits and policies is available through the Graduate School’s Policies Search page and the Ask a Dean archive.

This website is intended to address information needs of the Cornell community related to this important issue. The list of Frequently Asked Questions reflects many of the questions raised about union representation. The Communications and Resources section includes the set of communications from the Graduate School and the university administration about graduate student union representation to date. 

I encourage open, constructive, and factual conversations about graduate assistant union representation at Cornell.  If you have questions or comments about any of the topics on this site, or questions about graduate assistant union representation that are not yet covered here, please contact me at dean_gradschool@cornell.edu and my Graduate School team and I will endeavor to address your questions. 

Graduate students are vitally important members of our community.  Student-led leadership and advocacy continues through governance of students’ graduate fields, of academic departments, of the Graduate School especially as voting members of the General Committee, and of the university overall through the elected members of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GPSA) and student-elected Trustees. Together we look forward to making progress in continually improving the graduate student experience at Cornell.

Cornell remains committed to the success of our graduate students and to the integrity of our research, teaching, and engagement mission.

Warm regards,

Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School