We are writing to clear up confusion evident in the story “The mysterious graduate student union movement” published on September 7th. Some additional information will serve your readership well.

First, there is no UM graduate student union yet, so it is unsurprising that University administration has not heard of it. A labor union is a legally-recognized entity with powers granted by its members and protected by US law. To obtain those powers, workers need to vote to form a union. This is the first step in empowering members in many important fields where unions have been established for decades, like auto workers, teachers, electricians, and firefighters. If UM graduate employees vote to form a union, the university administration will have no choice but to recognize and bargain in good faith with that group.

Second, there is nothing mysterious about the unionization effort. It is important to remember, however, that until there is an official union, recognized by its members, with officers elected by the same members, no one can officially speak for the union or the employees it represents. Labor organization is a grassroots effort, and no one represents the union until the members authorize them to do so. It would have been prudent, however, to interview graduate students for your story. Though there are no union officers yet, it seems likely that many graduate students might have personal opinions on the efforts to organize their labor.

Lastly, we encourage a follow-up report in the Kaimin where reporters dive into the long and lasting impacts of labor unions in this country and what that could mean for graduate employees at research universities. There are many examples of graduate employee unions, some of which are now decades old (University of Michigan, NYU, MIT, University of Oregon, and many others). We would also encourage reporters and readers to take a look at Montana State University’s Graduate Employee Union (https://www.msugeo.org), which won recognition years ago and has provided real, tangible improvements to the quality of life for MSU graduate employees.

Sincerely,

Ross Hinderer, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biology

Cynthia Ulbing, PhD Student, Ecology and Evolution

Colette Berg, PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolution

Mark Spero, MFA and MA Candidate, Poetry and Literary Studies

Heidi Abresch, PhD Student, Ecology and Evolution

Valery Roman-Cruz, PhD Candidate, Cellular Molecular Microbial Biology

Nikea Ulrich, PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolution

Ryan Mahar, Master’s Student, Ecology and Evolution

Keely Corder, PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolution

Joseph Vanderwall, PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolution

Lindsey Barnard, PhD Student, Wildlife Biology

Anna Moeller, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biology

Jeffrey Chandler, Masters Student, Systems Ecology

Andrew Lahr, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biology

Michelle Kissling, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biology

Amanda Emmel, MS Student, Wildlife Biology

Matthew Webster, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biology

Kaitlyn Reintsma, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biology

Leah Joyce, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biology

Jordan Heiman, MS Student, Wildlife Biology

Elise Zarri, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biology

Tim Forrester, PhD Candidate, Ecology and Evolution

Vladimir Kovalenko, Masters Student, Systems Ecology

Zachary Robinson, PhD Candidate, Wildlife Biology

Michelle Nemetchek, PhD Candidate, Biochemistry and Biophysics

Grace Erba, PhD Student, Wildlife Biology