Graduate students at five other Big Ten schools — and 30 nationwide — have already unionized.
As they seek to organize a union for more than 4,000 of their peers, graduate employees at the University of Minnesota have four decades of history and handfuls of examples to follow.
Of the 12 universities in or entering the Big Ten conference, five have labor unions for at least some of their graduate employees — adding to a total of 30 institutions nationwide, according to the Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions.
“We are certainly taking a lot of lessons from past unionization campaigns,” said Adria Fernandez, an organizer and agronomy student at the University, “both here and at other schools.”
One role model lies in neighboring Wisconsin, whose flagship university in Madison was the first to have its graduate employees unionized more than 40 years ago.
Since then, the Teaching Assistants’ Association has developed a more stable relationship with the human resource employees that represent the ground level of management. Unlike the University of Minnesota, those employees are not the chief negotiators for management — Wisconsin does not have a state charter for its university, which means the union bargains directly with the state, currently led by Gov. Scott Walker.
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