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Contracts, Dues, and Eligibility

Contents

  1. What is covered in a union contract?
  2. Can I see the proposed contract, including the list of terms and conditions of employment, before I vote? 
  3. What if I object to a specific provision in the labor contract, am I still bound by it?
  4. If union representation is approved, will graduate students move in and out of the union depending on their position at Cornell?
  5. Can Cornell make exceptions to the union contract to accommodate special needs of individual graduate students?
  6. How much are union dues and how do students pay them? 

1. What is covered in a union contract?

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) requires employers and unions to bargain with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. 

Because graduate students are admitted to Cornell as students (not hired as employees) and attend Cornell as part of their academic education and training, it is possible that there will be disagreements about what topics are eligible for negotiation and bargaining on terms and conditions of employment for graduate assistants on Policy 1.3 appointments, in which their teaching and research experiences are key components of their education. The U-UCRREA recognizes that issues involving the academic mission of the University lie outside the scope of bargaining as defined by the NLRA, such as admissions requirements for graduate programs, students’ academic standing or progress, matters pertaining to degree requirements, and matters pertaining to course assignments, teaching methods, and curricula.

Because the U-UCRREA expires if the union is recognized as the exclusive collective bargaining representative through an election process, if a union is elected it is unknown what issues will be introduced by the union as bargaining proceeds.  Cornell cannot predict what issues will be raised in the bargaining process.

The amici brief filed by a group of Ivy League and other universities in the Columbia University case considered by the National Labor Relations Board describes some of these potential uncertainties about the limited scope of bargaining on terms and conditions of employment for graduate assistants versus the broader scope of academic program requirements, research activity, and other academic matters.


2.  Can I see the proposed contract, including the list of terms and conditions of employment, before I vote? 

No. There is no such contract to show you.  Negotiations about specific terms and conditions of employment occur after a union representation election, if the vote is in favor of union representation. Therefore, the actual terms and conditions of employment that will end up in a potential agreement are not yet known since they have not yet been negotiated.


3.  What if I object to a specific provision in the signed labor contract, am I still bound by it?

Yes, if you hold an appointment in the bargaining unit.  Collective bargaining is intended to meet the interests of the group, and does not have provisions for each individual to decide which components of the contract to “opt into” or “opt out of.” 

The union, as the exclusive bargaining agent of the entire bargaining unit, speaks and acts for all graduate assistants in the bargaining unit.  The provisions that the union negotiates in the labor contract with the university apply to all bargaining unit members.


4.  If union representation is approved, will graduate students move in and out of the union depending on their position at Cornell?

Yes, it is common in some graduate fields for students to shift regularly, by semester or academic year, between Policy 1.3 assistantships and fellowships or other types of financial support.

Whenever an Ithaca or Geneva campus-based graduate student who is enrolled in the Graduate School holds a Policy 1.3 assistantship appointment, then he or she would be a member of the union/bargaining unit.

University-Union negotiations pertain only to students in the collective bargaining unit by virtue of their Policy 1.3 appointment.


5.  Can Cornell make exceptions to the union contract to accommodate special needs of individual graduate students?

Generally, the answer to this question is no, since the purpose of a collective bargaining agreement is to provide benefits by group not individual.  


6.  How much are union dues and how do students pay them?

CCGSU/AFT/NYSUT decides how much will be charged to members of the bargaining unit as dues.  They have informed the Graduate School that “NYSUT/AFT dues for union members who are paid similarly to Cornell graduate assistants currently amount to between 1%-1.25% of total wages, paid out incrementally per paycheck.” 

According to the NYSUT/AFT dues schedule for 2016-2017 provided to the Graduate School by CGSU, annual dues would have been as follows. (NOTE:  Appropriate local dues amounts should be added to each category; local dues information was not made available.)

In most cases, union dues are automatically deducted out of the worker’s paycheck and given directly to the union. Some union contracts provide that failure to pay union dues or agency fees could result in dismissal from the appointment. 

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