Graduate Students Against GSWU

An Open Letter to Graduate Students

Graduate students at the University of Minnesota have witnessed an onslaught of activity surrounding the upcoming vote on graduate assistant unionization next week. Union organizers and the University administration alike have engaged in a propaganda battle that has alienated many graduate students.

Our group is unaffiliated with either of the parties above. We are your fellow graduate students, and we hope to help you make an informed choice in this election. We will support whatever decision is made next week, but we outline here our reasons for voting "No" to unionization.

The most important reason is that, given the financial state of the University, it is unlikely a union will secure us salary, benefit or other monetary increases from the University. There are not large, untapped sources of money that a union, working on our behalf, could access. If there were, we suspect that one of 11 unions currently representing workers on campus would have already done so. Instead, these unions have had to accept furloughs, pay freezes, and layoffs while graduate students without a union have been the only group to receive pay raises during the financial crises of the past few years.

Given the fact that we are in graduate school, money is not our only concern. We are also concerned about the conditions of our workplace, whether they are labs, classrooms or offices. We require concessions from the University for sick leave, family leave, health/dental coverage and many other policies. These concessions have, however, already been made in good faith by the University in order to make our University more attractive to prospective graduate students. Additionally, the University limits the work load a TA/RA can be assigned, sets a minimum pay that each TA/RA must receive, and provides a mechanism (OCR, SCRC, SLS) by which graduate students can resolve disputes regarding any of these policies, or anything else related to the graduate student experience.

The subject of dues is very important for many students since the $200-$350 annual fee that the UAW charges can add up over 5-6 years. For most of us this is more money than we pay for our health coverage. Furthermore, these dues represent the only change that union organizers can guarantee will occur if we are unionized. The distribution of this money is also a problem — at a minimum, over half will leave the University community to fund the UAW International, with the remainder going to the local union chapter. Students who disagree with this distribution would have limited options for opting out of this fee; everyone would be required to pay at least the "fair-share" fee and, by trading away their voting rights, would still be required to pay up to 85% of member dues.

The unionization effort is based on good intentions from people whom we consider our peers. However, the fact that they are not able to point to a graduate student population that is oppressed by the University makes us wonder if such a group exists. Organizers express concerns that the University may start mistreating graduate students, and at that point, we will need a union. In response we point to the fact that the University graduate students have voted down a union three times in the past 22 years (1990, 1999 and 2005). If the University had been mistreating graduate students during that time, our predecessors would have enlisted the support of a union for protection. The fact that they did not indicates an unbroken trend of support of the graduate student population by the University.


Kumar Agrawal, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Elizabeth Allen, Animal Science
Jose Asturias, Economics
Benjamin Bangasser, Biomedical Engineering and CEMS
Rich Beck, Biomedical Engineering
Jennifer Becker, Animal Science
Jeremy Bedard, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Joe Belanto, Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology, and Genetics
Samuel Blass, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Ben Bonis, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics
Aaron Boomsma, Mechanical Engineering
Joshua Borycz, Chemistry
Shameek Bose, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Wyatt Brooks, Economics
Abigail Carpenter, Animal Science
Sam Dalsin, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Caroline Diep, Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology
John Dixon, Mechanical Engineering
Ben Dymond, Civil Engineering
Allison Dzubak, Chemistry
Steven Eichten, Plant Biology
Susanna Emond, Chemistry
Celeste Falcon, Applied Plant Sciences
Andrew Fielding, Chemistry
Chris Flynn, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics
Daniel Franta, Civil Engineering
Andrew Gastineau, Civil Engineering
Erik Goebel, Chemistry
Aloysius Gunawan, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Matthew Haas, Plant Pathology
Eric Hald, Biomedical Engineering
Jeffrey Hall, Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology
Joshua Halverson, Chemistry
Andrea Hanson, Animal Science
Amy Hazel, Animal Science
Eric Hintsala, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Aaron Hedegaard, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Brock Hedegaard, Civil Engineering
Frazer Heinis, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics
Kyle Hoegh, Civil Engineering
Ryan Hue, Chemistry
Samia Ilias, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Prahladh Iyer, Aerospace Engineering
Amy Jacobson, Applied Plant Sciences
Jeff Jaderborg, Animal Science
Luke Jordan, Biomedical Engineering
Aunica Kane, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics
Allison Kennedy, Physics
JoAnn Kirsch, Applied Plant Sciences
Rebecca Klank, Biomedical Engineering
T Ryan Knutson, Chemistry
Aaron League, Chemistry
Pingyan Lei, Mechanical Engineering
Caleb Levar, Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology
Rachel Levine, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Spencer Luebben, Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology, and Genetics
Elizabeth Mallon, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Ben Manning, Chemistry
Thomas Longwell, Economics
Bernabe Lopez-Martin, Economics
Eric Matzke, Civil Engineering
John McAllister, Chemistry
Xavier Mirabent, Economics
Joanna Mooney, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics
Krista Morris, Civil Engineering
Venkat Narayanan, Mechanical Engineering
Kathryn Nelson, Medicinal Chemistry
Amanda Oehrlein, Chemistry
Sarah Offutt, Biomedical Engineering
Walter Partlo, Chemistry
Devan Paulus, Animal Science
Gina Pieters, Economics
Thomas Quan, Economics
Martin Rostagno, Economics
David Rowe, Mechanical Engineering
Alex Rudd, Chemistry
Lindsay Rymes, Chemistry
Chris Schaefer, Agronomy and Plant Genetics
Kyle Schwartz, Chemistry
Stephen Sedler, Mechanical Engineering
Jason Senchina, School of Music
Michelle Smith, Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology
Stephen Snyder, Physics
Dmitry Spivak, Physics
Mandy Stahre, Public Health
Kevin Stanek, Psychology
Dana Strandjord, Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology, and Genetics
Pranav Suri, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Garrett Swindlehurst, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Jeff Ting, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Jennifer Triemstra, Veterinary Medicine
Barbara Tschida, Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology, and Genetics
Mary Vancura, Civil Engineering
Rajan Vatassery, Chemistry
Bess Vlaisavljevich, Chemistry
Andrea Waddle, Economics
Andrew Wagner, Chemical Engineering/Materials Sci
Ellis Warner, Chemistry
Jacqueline Wendel, Biomedical Engineering
Lance Wheeler, Mechanical Engineering
Benjamin Wilson, Chemistry
Adam Wohl, Chemistry
Chunying Xie, Economics
Lori Zacharoff, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics

If you would like your name added to this list, please email

Graduate Students Against the GSWU