University Discusses Graduate Student Unionization

The letter, sent by President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier, challenged whether the formation of a union truly benefits graduate students.

By Tyrone Lomax, News Editor

In a joint e-mail released on Tuesday, President Robert J. Zimmer and Provost Daniel Diermeier encouraged open discussion regarding graduate student unionization. 

Graduate workers gained the right to unionize as of last August in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling, which overturned a precedent set by a case at Brown University. Since then, efforts to unionize by student groups have sprouted across different universities—public and private—with mixed results. 

Citing these fluctuations as an indicator of the “complexity of the question,” the letter challenged whether the formation of a union truly benefits graduate students. 

“A union could come between students and faculty to make crucial decisions on behalf of students, focusing on collective interests rather than each student’s individual educational goals,” Zimmer and Diermeier wrote. 

The letter also posits that administrative change can occur without union representation. Zimmer and Diermeier argue against the belief that labor unions produce better results in comparison to open dialogue, deeming them speculative. 

The past collaborations between Graduate Students United and the administration were referenced as evidence. “The enhancements of the graduate student experience at UChicago in recent years occurred without union representation; they were the result of direct interaction among graduate students, faculty, deans, and the provost’s office,” the letter states.