Grad Students, Supporters Rally For Union

Feb 15, 2018

Penn State graduate students who want to unionize and their supporters rallied outside Old Main Feb. 14, 2018.
Credit Anne Danahy / WPSU

"What do we want? Unions! When do we want it? Now."

That chant was part of the demonstration Penn State graduate student employees who want to unionize held Wednesday in front of Old Main, the university administration building. 

Among those clapping and cheering at a pro-union rally were faculty, employees and politicians.

Derek Fox, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics, said graduate students have voted to unionize at other institutions and the sky hasn’t fallen.

“I just wanted to convey the message that many faculty — surely not all — many faculty support their right to self-determination and even the formation of their union," Fox said.

State Rep. Scott Conklin was also there to show support. His district includes much of Penn State's University Park campus.

“I’ve been in the union since 1977. My grandfather was in the union. My father was in the union. What the unions have done for my family is it’s given equality," Conklin said. "It makes everybody on a level playing field.”

A hearing examiner with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ruled last week that Penn State graduate employees have union rights.

The university called that decision disappointing. In a statement the university said a union would “fundamentally alter the graduate student experience and the fabric of graduate programs at Penn State for years to come.”

A date has not been set for the election, but an announcement is expected soon.