The graduate students at the University of Minnesota are voting to unionize soon. I have no dog in this fight, so I can really care less what the outcome is. However, there are some things about grad student unions that make it very different than normal unions:
- Grad student is not a career. Everyone in the union has a very finite amount of time in the union. There really isn’t a notion of seniority that would apply to most unions.
- There will probably be an enormous split between the grad students in IT and CBS and those who work in CLA. Science people have better job outlooks and can get more grant money for research. If your an english grad student, this might be as good as it gets.
- Very little bargaining power. In addition to being employees, they are students. They get their tuition paid for. If they go on strike, I can see the university forcing them to pay tuition, which would cause most grad students to have to drop out. Most are very poor and they need to get a degree to have any future job prospects. If push were to come to shove, I wonder how many grad students would risk leaving school for an extra $1,200/year.
- They aren’t really an oppressed class. We’re not talking about coal miners living in a company town here. Most of the advocacy stuff I’ve seen boils the reason for unionization down to “we want a raise” which I think they could lobby for without unionizing.
Like I said, I really don’t give a crap how it pans out, its just interesting to watch. If they vote yes and do get a pay raise, the money will come from somewhere. It could come from a reduction in future grad student admissions and/or some combination of savings from the elimination of General College or other things.