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Graduate Students Vote to Unionize at Yale University

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Graduate students from a half-dozen departments at Yale University have voted to form unions, setting up negotiations for contracts with the Ivy League school.

The National Labor Relations Board administered elections Thursday for graduate students in nine departments.

Students from the departments of English, geology and geophysics, history, history of art, math, and sociology voted in favor of unionization, organizers said. Students in the physics department voted against it. In the departments of East Asian languages and political science, a majority went for unionization, but ballots were still to be counted.

“This moment has been decades in the making,” said Local 33-UNITE HERE chairman Aaron Greenberg, a graduate student in political science. “Tonight is a tremendous victory and an opportunity for all of us to come together and work to address the issues we face.”

The NLRB found last August that graduate assistants who assist in teaching and research at private universities are employees and have a right to union representation. Yale organizers filed their petitions within a week of the ruling.

Local 33-UNITE HERE had the NLRB’s approval to hold elections for individual departments, despite objections from the university.

Yale Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley said the results reflect division among graduate students, noting the union lost in one of its hand-picked departments.

“The slim margins of victory and very low vote counts in many departments only underscore the concerns many have voiced that a small number of students could be in the position to decide such an important question for everyone,” she said.

The Yale organizers say they believe a union would help address concerns surrounding pay and benefits.

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