I work in the engineering field as a PhD student, and I perform some experiments that carry some intrinsic risks of injury. When I first heard about the Union, I thought that it would be beneficial for students to have some bargaining power and extra protections. I have always been worried that if I was injured while working, I would not be adequately compensated. Additionally, while I think the health insurance that Cornell offers us is adequate, it does have several limitations, such as a small network around the Ithaca area. It is apparent that those in support of the Union think this as well, and repeatedly hammer home that our worker protections are not as good as they should be. This is mainly why I first “joined” the Union last semester.
Union organizers seemed very aggressive in recruiting students in our lab and around campus. At first, this seemed fine, but quickly got very annoying and intrusive, especially since one of my lab mates needed extra time to think about being in support of the Union. Because of her indecision, Union organizers would come by several times per month and try to convince her to join. Additionally, when my partner told the Union organizers that she would not support the union and would not sign a membership card, organizers came to her residence and bothered her to explain why. It seems like many other students were also aggressively pursued, based on newspaper reports and testimonials around campus.
After further research, I realized how deceptive these organizers were when they talked to us about signing a membership card. Even their advertising was deceptive. On their brochure, it states that you can “join” the Union by signing a membership card. However, this is a ridiculous notion since the Union does not currently exist. Additionally, it was told to us that our dues would be “at least 1%” of our annual stipend, but later an email was sent to us saying that we would owe at least 1.75% of our annual stipend. How much would we actually owe? Who knows, but even the Union organizers have trouble articulating what our dues would be used for and what extra protections and benefits that amount would give us.
Ultimately, organizers would cherry pick cases that show their point. This was more apparent after my lab mate cut himself badly, and was offered worker’s compensation for his injuries. Because of the GPSA, we can currently claim worker’s compensation from Cornell if we are injured, but the Union organizers would like us to believe that we “may not” have any such protections. They used scare tactics that basically amounted to this: Hurry! You might get injured and not be protected! You need the Union to protect you!