May-August 2023 (Motion for Summary Judgment, Hearing, and Settlement)
Organizers and graduate students immediately began preparing to fight the university's objection. Our lawyers interviewed dozens of people, including RAs/TAs, fellows, faculty, undergraduate students, staff members, and more.
In addition to filing an objection, the university filed a Motion for Summary Judgment which would have enabled them to forego a hearing and present their case on paper. We strongly opposed this motion as we believed the full facts of our case could not be represented on paper. The university disagreed.
Our hopes had been to get the Motion for Summary Judgment dismissed--instead, the ALRA ruled in our favor on the motion, granting us a unit of graduate RAs/TAs, student assistants, and staff members, and leaving only fellows and service/engagement assistants to be decided at trial.
In response, the university filed a Motion for Reconsideration and we requested that the ALRA reaffirm its ruling. While waiting for this ruling, we began meeting with the university and a mediator provided by the ALRA to try to reach a settlement and forego a hearing. During settlement discussions, the ALRA responded to the university's last motion and agreed to allow the university to present new evidence at hearing.
We reached a settlement with the university for our bargaining unit to be defined as all graduate assistants, all student assistants who were graduate students, and all graduate fellows. We are excited to move forward with a vote in Fall 2023!
March-April 2023 (Showing of Interest and University Objection)
The university submitted a list in response to our petition of with 500+ graduate students employed by the university. This included any graduate student who was employed by the university in any position. The Alaska Labor Relations Agency (ALRA) then counted the submitted cards and found that we had enough to fulfill the "showing of interest."
Documents from the ALRA pertaining to the "showing of interest":
On April 10th, the university then objected to to our petition and unit description, stating that our unit failed to meet Alaska's "wall-to-wall" requirement by not including undergraduate employees and that fellows were not employees of the university and therefore ineligible to be in a union.
January-February 2023 (Refile)
We communicated several times with the university's lawyers and were told they were finding it difficult to distinguish which undergraduates were doing 'substantially similar work' because the same employment codes are used for a wide variety of jobs. We were told they would be happier to avoid the issue of undergrads and focus on and 'all-graduates' unit.
52 days after we filed our first petition, the university submitted a response with ~1200 students listed, including all undergrads with an employment code that matched any code also associated with a grad student. This included residence hall assistants, student firefighters, and others whose job titles we had already identified and specified as not being included in the unit we claimed to represent. Additionally, the university included every employee who was also a graduate student, including many of those who were regular staff members not doing bargaing unit work.
In response, and given the difficulty that identifying work duties seemed to pose for the university, we wrote a new unit description based on graduate student status. Since this expanded the number of students in the unit we spent an additional two weeks collecting new signed cards and getting cards that had expired re-signed. We filed our second petition for recognition on Feb 22. This time we did not grant the university an extension.
September-December 2022 (Card Drive)
We began our card signing campaign on Sept 20. Organizers spent hours walking the halls and sending emails, talking to fellow graduate students about our goals for unionization.
We modeled our unit description after other successful efforts that included all Academic Student Employees (any student employee involved in instruction or research), including undergrads doing substantially similar work to graduate students.
By late November we collected signed cards from a supermajority of the potential unit members (~425 students doing Graduate Research Assistant, Teaching Assistant, or Service/Engagement Assistant work), and we filed our petition for recognition with the Alaska Labor Relations Agency (ALRA) on December 9th. Additionally, we delivered a letter asking for voluntary recognition signed by 70+ graduate workers to President Pitney. The university never responded to the letter.
The university had 10 days to respond with the list of students that fit the unit description. Since it was just before finals and winter break, we agreed to give the university an extension.
Spring/Summer 2022 (UAW Affiliation)
After numerous conversations, the graduate workers on the organizing committee decided to affiliate with UAW in early 2022. UAW was then able to provide advice and resources as well as research into the intricacies of labor law in Alaska. It became clear that a union would cover grad students at all University of Alaska campuses and the UAF group began reaching out to UAA and UAS graduate students.
2020-2021 (Early Days)
In the fall of 2020, graduate students began reaching out to one another across departments in order to have conversations about graduate worker issues. Over 2020 and 2021, graduate workers at UAF from the English Department, Geophysical Institute, Biology & Wildlife Department, and College of Fisheries and Ocean Science began meeting to discuss unionization as the best way to address concerns of graduate workers. They began researching the steps unionization would take and seeking feedback on the idea from as wide a range of graduate students as they could.