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At What Cost is a voluntary team of Cornell graduate students concerned about CGSU/NYSUT/AFT’s unionization effort here on campus. Our goal to assist students in their pursuit of information on the matter. Specifically, we aim to address topics where information is insufficient or topics where the union is spreading misinformation. Has CGSU proved that a union can solve our problems? At What Cost does not think so, especially given that a union cannot address academic issues.


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Withdraw your Union Membership Card

Many graduate students feel they were coerced into signing a Union Membership Card. You can withdraw your Union Membership Card! Click here to learn how.


File a grievance

Many students are tired of being solicited about the Union. You can now file a grievance against the Union or University. Click here to learn how.


Print a poster: Click here


 Common misunderstandings:

“If I don’t vote or if I vote NO, I won’t be part of the union.”

False. Regardless of if or how you vote, all graduate assistants will pay the Union. Even if you don’t have a vote now because you are on a fellowship, you will be a part of the union if you later go on an assistantship.

“Since I’m an international student, I can’t vote.”

False. All international students on assistantships will have a vote just like any other student on an assistantship.

“The union won’t cost me anything.”

False. Every graduate assistant would pay at least $400 out of their paychecks yearly. Despite a lack of information, we estimate that dues could easily reach $800 yearly for every graduate assistant.


What is this about unionization?

CGSU, an organization of Cornell graduate students, approached NYSUT/AFT, state-wide and national unions, to help unionize Cornell graduate TAs, RAs, and GRAs.

What is a union?

A union of graduate students would collectively bargain for a legally enforceable contract with the University. All graduate TAs, RAs, and GRAs would be a part of the union if we vote to recognize CGSU/NYSUT/AFT as our organization for collective bargaining.

How does the union become recognized?

CGSU/NYSUT/AFT have to collect the signatures of at least 30% of the graduate student assistants to file for an election of all graduate assistants. CGSU/NYSUT/AFT would then file for an election with AAA, a neutral arbitration association, which will conduct the election on campus. All graduate assistants, both international and domestic, will have the choice to vote “YES” if he/she wants CGSU/NYSUT/AFT to represent them for collective bargaining or “NO” if she/he would prefer that CGSU/NYSUT/AFT not unionize Cornell’s graduate assistants. Whichever choice (“YES” or “NO”) has the most votes wins, no matter how many people vote.

If the Union is recognized, what happens next?

To the best of our understanding, the next step would be to begin contract negotiations. Other AFT graduate student unions, elect “stewards” which would be graduate students with the responsibility of negotiating with the University, however CGSU has not stated how it will proceed. At this time, we do not know what topics the contract will include, what CGSU/NYSUT/AFT has identified as important issues and their proposed solutions, or how local dues money would be appropriated.

Once there’s a contract, what happens next?

Although we do not know the specifics of CGSU/NYSUT/AFT, all unions, that we are aware of, have a contract ratification vote. In other words, once the contract is penned, the bargaining unit (all assistants) vote for whether or not we agree to the terms of the contract. If not, contract negotiations begin again.

What if we later decide that we don’t want a union?

The process of removing a union is more difficult than recognizing one. To decertify a union, 30% of graduate assistants would have to sign cards or a petition to hold a decertification election. However, while a contract is in effect, the union cannot be decertified. AFT’s graduate student union contracts are typically 3 years long. Moreover assistants could not sign this petition during work (presumably meaning on campus), and that the University is not allowed to provide any help or information, such as a list of graduate assistants names. Also, the NLRB has ruled that a union cannot be decertified less than one year after it has been certified even if we haven’t ratified a contract.


Who’s behind At What Cost?

We are a group of Cornell graduate students that are concerned about the unionization effort at Cornell. We have no leader or hierarchical structure; we are simply a grassroots movement of graduate students who want to share information about unionization when it seems that many graduate students haven’t been able to find answers or haven’t been able to take the time to find information in the extensive administration FAQ or CGSU’s own website. Check out our About Us page for more information including bios.


Some of our recent posts:

Cornell Sun highlights At What Cost – October 26, 2016

Dues without democracy: AFT Unions require extra dues for voting rights? – October 24, 2016

Cornell Graduate Students Would Each Pay Nearly $400 to NYSUT/AFT Yearly – October 16, 2016

How do Cornell stipends compare to other Universities? – October 21, 2016

How can you help? – October 19, 2016

Unionization Failed at Cornell in 2002 but Succeeded at NYU – October 12, 2016