UFF Wins Union Victory

By a 3-to-1 Margin, FSU Graduate Assistants Vote to Join Union

Tallahassee, FL – Graduate Assistants at Florida State University (FSU) voted overwhelmingly to unite with thousands of higher education faculty and professionals represented by the United Faculty of Florida (UFF).

Their newly approved union, United Faculty of Florida-Florida State University-Graduate Assistants United (UFF-FSU-GAU), became the official representative of 2,800 graduate employees at FSU in balloting that concluded May 1.

Despite end-of-semester exams, 600 graduate employees cast ballots and 76 percent voted in favor of UFF representation. The turnout was strong considering the time of year: It was the last two days of final exams and many said they stayed in town just to cast their vote.

“We teach a majority of the classes at FSU,” said UFF-FSU-GAU Co-President Danielle Holbrook. “We are the largest group of employees on campus, but we have been working without job security or health insurance. Our workloads have been increasing while our salary remains the same, which means in this economy we’re being paid less each year. Without our labor, the university could not function, but we’ve had no legal voice in how we are treated, so we organized a union and are ready to negotiate with the university.”

The successful vote is the result of a campaign by graduate employees at FSU with the help of UFF. In November 2007, a group of graduate employees met to discuss forming a union. UFF conducted trainings and assisted them in their grassroots, door-to-door effort to mobilize a campaign. Concerned about increasing workloads in light of state budget cuts, substandard and inadequate pay, and expensive health insurance, they began a drive to petition Florida’s Public Employees Relations Commission for a union election. They got 55 percent of the employees to sign cards for union representation.

A huge source of support came from international students in engineering and the hard sciences who live in FSU campus housing. They mobilized around quality of life issues, including health insurance and better pay, but also for respect and a voice in their lives, including improved housing conditions and additional childcare options. The union was also endorsed by the Chinese Student Association.

“The results of this election would not have been possible without the strong support of the Florida Education Association and the National Education Association,” said UFF Executive Director Ed Mitchell.

UFF represents higher education faculty and professionals at 12 universities and nine colleges. In addition, UFF represents the graduate assistants at the University of Florida, Florida A&M University and the University of South Florida.

For more information, please visit UFF online or http://www.unitedfacultyofflorida.org/

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