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Chicago Will ‘Bargain in Good Faith’ After Grad Workers Vote to Unionize

March 20, 2023

University of Chicago graduate student workers have voted 1,696 to 155 to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board announced Thursday evening.

On Friday, Ka Yee C. Lee, Chicago’s provost, said in a statement that “the university will bargain in good faith with” the union.

The NLRB said there were 3,200 eligible voters. Lee said in her statement that, “Of the 9,904 graduate students at the university, 3,287 were eligible to vote based on their current or recent appointments under the election petition” the union filed.

“The parties have five business days to file objections to the election,” an NLRB spokeswoman wrote in an email Friday. “If no objections are filed, the result will be certified and the employer must begin bargaining in good faith with the union.”

The provost’s statement gave no indication that Chicago will object. The new union will be called Graduate Students United, affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.

“Almost every graduate student at the university could potentially be represented by GSU-UE at some point during their academic career,” Lee said. “I encourage them to continue learning about and engaging with GSU-UE to make sure their voices are heard and represented during the bargaining process.”

Valay Agarawal, a chemistry Ph.D. student researcher and the union’s communications secretary, said the election occurred in person Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 and by mail from Jan. 31 to March 14.

“We are already happy with the result and, as organizers, we’re also very gratified by the result because of the amount of effort we have put into it,” he said. “And we are very excited for what comes next. We want to start improving the working conditions of everyone as soon as possible.”

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