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Union election months away as PGSU considers seeking voluntary recognition

Protest_Sign_Close_Shot_Louisa_Gheorghita.jpg
An attendee at the PGSU rally holds a sign up.
Louisa Gheorghita / The Daily Princetonian

Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated after PGSU clarified they have not firmly settled on seeking voluntary recognition.

After a semester of organizing, Princeton Graduate Students United (PGSU) is considering seeking voluntary recognition from the University. Despite substantial interest in the union, PGSU has not reached out to the University to seek said recognition, according to PSGU representative Tim Alberdingk Thijm.

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In a message to The Daily Princetonian, Thijm wrote that PGSU would contact the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency that governs unionization and other labor disputes, if the University decides not to recognize the union.

Thijm later clarified that the union hasn’t firmly settled on seeking voluntary recognition.

As of February, over half of Princeton graduate students have signed union cards with PGSU, which is affiliated with the national United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, well above the 30 percent threshold needed for the NLRB to conduct a union election. 

In a statement to the ‘Prince’, University spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss wrote that “PGSU has not had any direct communication with the University.”

“We’re solidifying and deepening our support across departments and looking forward to a fantastic summer of organizing,” Thijm wrote.

Thijm suggested that there would be no further action with the NLRB likely until the fall.

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“As the semester is now over, many grads are leaving or have left campus to conduct vital summer research. We want to make sure every grad can make their voice heard if an election is scheduled,” he wrote, explaining why PGSU had not chosen to file for an NLRB election yet.

According to the NLRB, once a union has been certified through an election or recognized by the University, the employer is then required to “bargain” over workers’ terms and conditions for employment with their union representative.

PGSU’s platform includes demands for guaranteed affordable housing, tax assistance for international students, and expanded healthcare coverage.

PGSU has been visible beyond campus, attending rallies during a nine-day strike at Rutgers University by graduate students, postdocs, adjunct faculty, and other staff. The final agreement included salary increases for graduate students. Representatives from PGSU were also seen during a May Day protest organized by Unidad Latina en Acción (ULA).

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Calls to complete the unionization process continue. In a recent opinion piece in the ‘Prince,’ PGSU founders Jamie Pelling GS and Sarah Reibstein GS ’22 urged students to unionize. “Now, we have the legal conditions and unique momentum to achieve these demands, act in solidarity, and address the myriad experiences of our fellow workers at Princeton,” they wrote.

Lia Opperman is an associate News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Miriam Waldvogel is an assistant News editor for the ‘Prince.’

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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