Indiana Daily Student

IU administration is opposed to IGWC-UE union’s recognition. Faculty, graduate workers speculate why.

<p>Students are seen holding strike signs and joining in chants April 14, 2022, in front of the Chemistry Building. Graduate workers feel IU administration has been unclear on their reasoning behind the opposition surrounding union recognition.</p>

Students are seen holding strike signs and joining in chants April 14, 2022, in front of the Chemistry Building. Graduate workers feel IU administration has been unclear on their reasoning behind the opposition surrounding union recognition.

Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electrical Workers’ fight for union recognition is still an ongoing issue with the IU administration as they continue opposing the effort.  

Anne Kavalerchik, a Ph.D. student in sociology and informatics and member of the IGWC-UE workers coordinating committee, said IU administration has not clearly stated why they are opposed to recognizing IGWC-UE as a union. 

A speculation could be misinformation being spread through the upper administration, Kavalerchik said.  

Kavalerchik said the only reasoning given from the administration is that a union is not right for IU’s campus. There are already 80,000 to 120,000 graduate students that are union recognized at many institutions across the country and the world, Kavalerchik said.  

“It would be in their interest to recognize us so that they can communicate with us without us having to do a strike every single time,” Kavalerchik said.  

Unions are legal in Indiana and there is nothing internal in IU’s policy that states graduate students cannot have a union, Kavalerchik said.  

Related: [Graduate workers vote against a new strike

Kavalerchik said that there already existing unions on campus such as American Federation of State County Municipal Employees and Communication Workers of America.

 IGWC-UE has been asking to become unionized under the HR-12-20 policy, Kavalerchik said. The HR-12-20 policy states that if at least 30% of the bargaining units submit union cards, that will trigger a union election, Kavalerchik said.  

“They’re not even just refusing to recognize our union — they’re refusing to allow us to hold an election,” Kavalerchik said.

If the administration recognized IGWC-UE's union, they would have to be compliant to having a bargaining relationship with IGWC-UE, Kavalerchik said. The administration having a bargaining relationship with IGWC-UE means they would be obligated to negotiate with IGWC-UE, Kavalerchik said.  

“They unfortunately do not communicate with us or follow our communications,” Kavalerchik said. “Our only way of communicating with them has been by striking, which is disruptive to the function of the university.” 

Professor Benjamin Robinson, president of the Bloomington Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said that IGWC-UE needs to be recognized as a union.  

Related: [Faculty urge trustees to reconsider decision on graduate worker union recognition

“The number one issue is recognition,” Robinson said. "What that speaks to is the actual role of students as agents in deciding their own terms of work, and to me that is a fundamental right.” 

Robinson said one of the many speculations to why the administration has refused to recognize IGWC-UE as a union is because there may be reluctance to share power.  

Sharing power means IGWC-UE would be capable of deciding the conditions they work in which would be negotiated with the IU administration. The IU administration would not have complete control over the graduate workers’ work conditions like they do now.  

Legally, there is not a statutory obligation for the administration to share power with IGWC-UE, Robinson said. Indiana does not have the labor rights that are protected at the federal law, which means union recognition is completely voluntary, Robinson said.  

Related: [Catch up on the IU graduate workers coalition before the strike vote

“They’re afraid of a voluntary act of recognition might upset a power base on which they have to rely for our state appropriations,” Robinson said.  

IU spokesperson Chuck Carney dismissed an interview about the topic of IGWC-UE's union recognition and left an email statement regarding the issue. 

Carney said in the email that the issue of union recognition remains unchanged and there is not much to say about it.  

“The IU Board of Trustees must make that decision and the chair of the trustees has said the trustees will not formally recognize the IGWC as an IU union because ‘the process to enhance the experience of graduate students is best accomplished through existing channels of shared governance and collaboration.’ (a quote from the letter the trustees sent to faculty),” Carney said in the email. 

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