Graduate students at UConn Health are upset with the University of Connecticut’s administration after being denied the opportunity to unionize.
Graduate students at UConn Health are paid a living stipend for their work in their graduate years because of the tasking hours the program requires, biomedical science Ph.D. student Jonathan Hudson said.
Some UConn Health graduate students receive academic training grants and awards that cover a portion of a student’s stipend as well as a portion of the cost to fund research and other lab expenses, Hudson explained.
Hudson and others advocating for students with grants see pushback against unionization from the administration as a punishment for their hard work.
“The administration, in meetings, have expressed that they do not want to include any students on a training grant in unions. This means that the administration does not want any students to be part of the bargaining unit and therefore not represented by our union,” Hudson said.
There was little comment on the dispute from UConn Health’s side, however UConn Health spokesperson Lauren Woods stated that they are willing to work with graduate students regarding this debate now and in the future.
“We have been, and continue to be, in discussions with the representatives of the Graduate Assistants at UConn Health wishing to unionize,” Woods said.
“The administration, in meetings, have expressed that they do not want to include any students on a training grant in unions. This means that the administration does not want any students to be part of the bargaining unit and therefore not represented by our union.”Jonathan Hudson, biomedical science Ph.D. student
A union would truly benefit all graduate students at UConn Health, biomedical engineering Ph.D. student at UConn Health Mikayla Moody expressed.
“Even people who are not on a fellowship or training grant want to be on a union, it’s really all graduate students at UConn Health who want to be included,” Moody said. “I’ve heard about graduate students wanting to start a union for years. A group of them tried before I got here, but weren’t successful just because it is so hard to get that representation.”
Moody is on a training grant themselves and talked about the ways a union would benefit their time at UConn Health.
“We have some good benefits already without the union, but I do think it would be nice to have representation in terms of support for graduate student mental health. For example getting time off,” Moody said. “At Storrs, graduate students have an allocated amount of time off they get each year, here we don’t have that so it’s up to your advisor. I’ve heard some horror stories where certain advisors don’t let Ph.D. students take time off at all.”
Hudson and other advocates have gotten a supermajority in support of a union and have completed all other steps to be approved for unionization, he said.
The UConn administration’s representatives are still against an immediate unionization however.
“Our discussions are on-going and we will continue to work together on this matter,” Woods said.
No matter how long it will take, Hudson is determined to support students on the grants until they reach their goal.
“I’ve heard about graduate students wanting to start a union for years. A group of them tried before I got here, but weren’t successful just because it is so hard to get that representation.”Mikayla Moody, biomedical engineering Ph.D. student
“Myself and other Ph.D. students advocating for those with these grants are not going to abandon them,” Hudson said. “We will stand by them until they are unionized. Right now they are being punished for winning prestigious awards.”
Moody explained that UConn Storrs graduate students do have a union, the Graduate Employees Union, while UConn Health graduate students don’t.
“I feel that there is a huge divide between the two campuses. Even though UConn Storrs and UConn Health are separate entities, union recognition is through UConn Storrs. So we have to get approval through Storrs,” Moody said.
Discussions between the campuses, students and administration are lingering.
“UConn Health supports the right of employees to organize for collective bargaining,” Woods said. “We will not comment on the specifics of the discussions between the parties.”
Hudson explained how many simply want a union to ensure fair working conditions and financial security for UConn Health graduate students. He is upset that so much back and forth has occurred without any breakthroughs.
“It’s something that is necessary to make sure voices are heard. It all boils down to the fact that we don’t have a voice,” Hudson said.