This past Fall, the University administration reached out to CGSU to discuss “developing a Union-University conduct rules and recognition election agreement” to guide the University and CGSU during the effort to build support and win recognition of CGSU as the labor union representing graduate student employees here at Cornell. CGSU accepted, in the belief that open lines of communication and positive working relationships can only strengthen this effort and show how powerful a union can be in representing the needs of graduate student employees.
While negotiations are still underway, CGSU and the University put together and released a joint statement (below) regarding these negotiations, in order to let members of the Cornell community know that this is happening.
Although the Cornell administration has stated that it doesn’t think that graduate student employees should be considered employees under the National Labor Relations Act, it agrees with the Union that “the decision to join CGSU belongs to graduate students alone.” And although Dean Knuth mentioned the 2002 union drive in recent remarks to the Faculty Senate, we would like to point out that CGSU represents a new generation of scholars; the university after the 2008 collapse is a different environment for us; the conditions of our labor have changed; we have a new national affiliate with different message and a background in academic organizing. The University and CGSU “recognize there is a strong possibility that the National Labor Relations Board may soon overturn current case law to consider private university graduate student assistants to be employees under the National Labor Relations Act.” This decision would be a first legal step toward greater workplace democracy for graduate workers at all private universities.
Both the Cornell administration and CGSU want to make sure that fair and correct information can be presented in the coming months; this is the focus and purpose of the ongoing negotiations. If we are able to reach a tentative agreement, we look forward to bringing a proposed code of conduct and recognition election agreement to the CGSU membership to be deliberated and voted on in the coming weeks.
April 13, 2016
Since mid-December, Cornell Graduate Students United and Cornell University have been working on developing a Union-University conduct rules and recognition election agreement that will serve as a common guide for the Union and the University as CGSU’s campaign to be the collective bargaining representative for Cornell’s graduate student assistants continues. Although discussions are still ongoing, negotiating teams representing the University and the Union hope to soon be able to reach a tentative agreement. If that happens, CGSU’s negotiation team would bring back a tentative agreement to be deliberated and voted on by the Union’s membership following its internal democratic process.
A guiding shared value that has carried the Union’s and University’s negotiations forward is that the decision to join CGSU belongs to graduate students alone. We respect graduate students’ choices. Cornell and CGSU are committed to working together to ensure that our community’s environment remains one in which the conditions for graduate students to make their own decisions about unionization without intimidation are achieved. Our negotiations have been setting a positive tone based on our shared values of dignity and respect for each other. We recognize there is a strong possibility that the National Labor Relations Board may soon overturn current case law to consider private university graduate student assistants to be employees under the National Labor Relations Act. In anticipation of this likely scenario, we believe that by proactively building a productive and considerate working relationship between the Union and University now, such a relationship will carry over into negotiations regarding a collective bargaining agreement if a majority of graduate student assistants selects CGSU as its representative.
We are proud of the work we have done to-date and we look forward to the work ahead. The Union and the University are committed to building a relationship that is aligned with Cornell’s core value of being a “collaborative, collegial, and caring community”  as well as its roles as a leader in labor relations education and as the land grant university of New York State.
 Cornell University, Cornell University at its Sesquicentennial: A Strategic Plan, p. 10 (available at http://www.cornell.edu/strategicplan)