Graduate and Professional Student Workers Vote to Unionize in Landslide Election

by Megan Vaz, Yale Daily News, Jan. 9, 2023

In a landslide victory, Yale’s graduate and professional student workers have voted to unionize, marking a historic first after decades of organizing on campus. According to the National Labor Relations Board’s final tally, 1,860 of 2,039 voters favored forming a collective bargaining unit under Local 33 – UNITE HERE, the graduate student union that has fought for University recognition since 1990.

Daily Union Elections, which tracks NLRB records, listed Local 33’s election filing as the second largest in the nation in 2022, with 4,000 graduate and professional workers eligible for union representation. Including challenged ballots that went uncounted due to wide vote margin, about two-thirds of those eligible to vote showed up to the polls or mailed in ballots.

“I’ve been looking forward to this day for years,” Local 33 co-President Ridge Liu GRD ’24 said in a Monday press release. “Generations of grad workers have organized before us, and I’m really excited to finally win.”

Yale has officially recognized the results of the election and confirmed that it will begin contract negotiations with Local 33. University President Peter Salovey sent an email to the Yale community shortly after the NLRB’s announcement, stating that the University remained committed to the emphasis on “free expression and mutual respect” that preceded the election. “With today’s result, the university will now turn to bargaining in good faith with Local 33 to reach a contract,” Salovey wrote. “As we work with the graduate student union, we will continue to be guided by our commitment to Yale’s educational and research mission and to the success of all our students.”

On Monday night, Local 33’s members and supporters streamed into the Old Heidelberg bar at the Graduate New Haven hotel for a victory party. The Graduate’s staff secured their first labor contract under Local 217 in the summer of 2022, three months after announcing they were filing to unionize at a Local 33 rally.

“One of two union bars in New Haven,” organizer Abigail Fields GRD ’24 observed. “It’s a historic day in New Haven and there have been graduate workers organizing at Yale for decades. And the win today is really the culmination, in a lot of ways, of generations of organizing, and that feels really incredible, and really powerful and moving to be a part of.”

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