On Sunday afternoon, the Monroe County Public Library auditorium overflowed with more than 150 graduate workers gathering for a town hall. After raising their fists and shouting “vote yes,” graduate workers pulled out their phones to cast their votes as the virtual polls opened for the Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electrical Workers’ strike authorization vote.
The results could determine whether graduate workers take to the picket lines and begin striking Wednesday, unless the university averts a strike by meeting the IGCW-UE’s demands.
The organization is seeking union recognition from the university to represent graduate workers in a collective bargaining agreement with the administration.
“The grad employees are ready to talk,” IGWC-UE organizer Sam Smucker said following Sunday’s meeting. “We’ve been ready to talk for three years.”
But graduate workers are also ready to strike, he said, if the IU administration doesn’t talk with the IGWC-UE.
The virtual polls will remain open until 3 p.m. Monday, for a total of 24 hours. IGWC-UE organizers will verify that there are no duplicate or unauthorized votes before announcing results.
If the vote passes and the university fails to meet with the IGWC-UE, graduate workers will proceed with the picket line schedule they drafted for April 13-15.
According to a PowerPoint presentation given during the town hall, more than 1,000 graduate workers have already pledged to join a strike, including more than 650 associate instructors.
More than 450 faculty members have pledged to remain neutral in their treatment of graduate workers who choose to strike, and more than 20 departments have committed not to retaliate against strikers.
The IGWC-UE plans to hold votes at least weekly on whether to continue striking.
Following Sunday’s meeting, graduate workers marched through downtown carrying signs reading “On strike for union recognition” before celebrating at Switchyard Brewery.
Scheduled activities for the potential upcoming picket lines this week include a vintage console gaming tournament and karaoke.
Not only do organizers hope the activities will encourage more people to join picket lines, but they also see celebration as a form of protest against a system that disempowers them, IGWC-UE organizer and Graduate and Professional Student Government president Valentina Luketa explained in a speech during Sunday’s town hall.
“It’s important to be together in joy,” Luketa said. “The world is watching us.”