In-person voting for union election wraps up; vote by mail ongoing

June 7, 2023, 1:54 a.m.

In-person voting for the Stanford graduate worker unionization election wrapped up last Thursday, June 1. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is conducting the election, will continue accepting mail-in ballots until 5 p.m. on June 30. Election results are expected to come out in early July after the NLRB tallies both in-person and mail-in ballots.

According to the University’s Graduate Student Unionization website, eligible voters living outside of the San Francisco Bay Area or studying abroad can vote by mail.

Hannah Johnston, Stanford Graduate Workers Union (SGWU) organizer and third-year Ph.D. candidate in history, worked at the in-person polls. She said the SGWU expects that there will be more in-person ballots than mail-in ballots cast.

“I ran into people and they were like, ‘I’m on my way to the polls,’” Johnston said. “From what I understand it seems like a lot of people made it there and voted, which was amazing.”

Graduate student workers voted at Tresidder, William F. Durand building and EVGR-B during the in-person voting dates. Voting at Tresidder and Durand took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., while voting at EVGR-B took place from 4 to 8 p.m.

Hanon McShea, SGWU organizer and fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in Earth system science, said that despite the election’s large scale and limited timeframe, “the turnout was fantastic.”

Student workers were assigned to Tresidder or Durand for the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time slot based on their academic department. Student workers from some departments reported being assigned to the polling location farther from their offices. Jason Anderson, SGWU organizer and fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in aeronautics and astronautics, was assigned to the Tresidder polling location despite that his office was closer to the Durand polling location.

“Everyone at the Durand building had to go to Tresidder,” Anderson said, adding that organizers made sure graduate student workers knew where to vote. Each department’s polling location was announced on the SGWU Twitter page.

Although select departments did have to vote at locations farther than their main workplace, Kamila Thompson, SGWU organizer and first-year Ph.D. student in electrical engineering, didn’t think that it was a widespread issue across all departments.

Some voters reported that it was a hassle to get to the polling location simply because their department was far away. Martabel Wasserman, SGWU organizer and fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in art and art history, said that while the art and art history department is based at McMurtry, she and other graduate workers in the department had to vote at Tresidder, which is a six-minute drive, or a 15-minute walk, according to Google Maps.

University spokesperson Stett Holbrook wrote in an email to The Daily that the departments and voting locations “were agreed upon by the union (United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America) and the University and approved by the NLRB, with a shared interest in assigning graduate students to voting locations near their departments.”

“There was also a third voting location on both evenings in Escondido Village, near where many graduate students live and where any eligible graduate student could vote,” Holbook wrote. “The University hopes that all eligible students exercised their right to vote, as was reiterated in statements on its graduate student unionization website and in the Stanford Report.”

The election outcome will be determined by whether a majority of participants vote for union representation, according to the University’s Graduate Student Unionization website. If a majority votes for representation, all members of the Stanford graduate workers bargaining unit will be represented by the SGWU, regardless of their individual vote, according to the website.

People pursuing the following degrees are included in the proposed bargaining unit: Ph.D. students, non-MBA masters students, J.D. students and students pursuing combinations of those degrees who provide the University with teaching and research assistance. Fellows who provide teaching services are also included.

Students who are not involved with research or instructional services, managerial and administrative staff and students pursuing degrees other than the ones mentioned above are excluded from the proposed bargaining unit and ineligible to vote. Sources of research funding also determined voter eligibility.

Despite the fact that some graduate students could not vote due to these eligibility requirements, Johnston said that these students will still be able to reap what the union bargains for, including “higher salaries, lower rent and increased benefits.” According to the University’s Graduate Student Unionization website, the union and University agreed on which students will be included and excluded in the bargaining unit.

Wasserman said that the eligibility for mail-in voting was “a bit unclear.”

Holbrook wrote that the “mechanics of any union election are subject to approval by the NLRB.”

“While the union and the university reached an agreement on the specifics of the election, including which students are eligible to vote, voting locations, and the availability of a mail-in ballot option for those graduate students residing outside of the Bay Area, the NLRB had to, and did, approve each and every one of those details,” Holbrook wrote.

Thompson said that graduate students were excited about the election and that they want to make changes, notably in regard to funding and housing. “I don’t think that they knew that we could request this power within our University,” she said.

Stanford graduate student workers launched their public unionization campaign on the first day of spring quarter, collecting over 3,600 signed union authorization cards in the following three weeks, according to organizers. The SGWU petitioned for an NLRB election in late April after the University declined to voluntarily recognize the union.

“The University’s stance toward graduate students and unionization has not changed. We greatly value the many contributions our graduate students make to Stanford’s mission of teaching and research,” Holbrook wrote. “We will continue working to understand, appreciate, and respond to the needs of our graduate students so that we may foster their well-being throughout their time at Stanford.”

The NLRB is set to tally the votes on July 6, and SGWU organizers estimate that the votes will be finalized soon after. If certified, Anderson said, the SGWU is prepared to start bargaining with the University as soon as possible.

“We’re not going to be delaying,” Anderson said. “We’re gonna hit the ground running here to serve graduate student needs.”

This article has been corrected to reflect that graduate students who provide the University with research services are also included in the proposed bargaining unit, and updated with additional comment from the University regarding eligibility.

Grace Lee is a University desk editor and was formerly a Magazine editor.Anne Li '24 M.S. '25 was a vol. 264 Equity Project editor. Contact her at anneli ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.

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