To: Graduate Students, Faculty, and Academic Appointees
From: Daniel Diermeier, Provost
Subject: Update on Graduate Student Unionization
Date: February 14, 2018
Late yesterday the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) notified the University that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voluntarily withdrew their petition to represent graduate students at the University who serve as teaching and research assistants. The Regional Director accordingly revoked their certification as exclusive collective bargaining representatives, which had been granted following the graduate student union election held on October 17 and 18.  Further union action on this matter would require a new petition to the NLRB and a new election.
This is a significant choice by the AFT and AAUP, one that unilaterally ends the formal process that began last May, when they filed their petition to represent graduate assistants. While I cannot speak to the AFT’s and AAUP’s motives in withdrawing the petition, their action naturally will raise many questions about the future of our efforts to ensure an outstanding educational experience for graduate students at the University.
Regardless of this decision by the AFT and AAUP, the union election outcome last October indicated that a large number of graduate students believe that the University should do more to support them. I unequivocally agree, and we will start this process immediately. I have asked Executive Vice Provost David Nirenberg to convene graduate students, faculty, and staff who will help identify ways to improve graduate student life at the University, including determining short-term and long-term objectives.  Such direct engagement with students was not possible under the law while the union petition was in effect. This process reaffirms our community’s shared commitment to providing an exceptional environment for graduate students. David and the team at UChicagoGRAD will be communicating again on these topics in the coming weeks.
Undoubtedly, the AFT’s and AAUP’s withdrawal of the union petition will be disappointing to many students and members of our community. I nevertheless hope that all will join in these renewed efforts to achieve our shared goals. The many contributions that graduate students make are critical to the entire University, and we seek and welcome your involvement as we work together to improve the support our community offers for students’ aspirations, education, and quality of life.
Graduate Education