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HARRISBURG (Sept. 5, 2017) – The president of the state’s largest school employee union today reaffirmed support for the Coalition of Graduate Employees at Penn State University, as the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board begins hearings on the group’s petition for union representation.
“A union would give us a strong democratic voice at Penn State and would protect employees who provide significant value to the university,” said PSEA President Dolores McCracken. “These workers have sought union representation and deserve a voice to ensure that no graduate employees live at or below poverty levels.”
McCracken said, “PSEA members are united in our support for Penn State’s graduate employees in their efforts to achieve both a living wage and to be treated with dignity and respect by the university.”
The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board began hearings today to consider Penn State’s legal challenge against the CGE’s petition for union representation by PSEA.
The Coalition of Graduate Employees formed to provide graduate assistants, research assistants, and teaching assistants a voice at Penn State to advocate for better working conditions, a living wage, and adequate health care and child care benefits.
Katie Warczak, a spokesperson for CGE, said many graduate employees at Penn State are working as many as 60 hours a week even though they are classified as part-time employees and contracted to work 20 hours a week. These same employees are currently earning less than the average annual Centre County living wage of $20,000.
At least 32 universities, including six out of 14 schools in the Big Ten, have unionized graduate employees. The University of California system, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and New York University are among the schools which have unionized graduate employees.
McCracken is a paraprofessional in the Council Rock School District. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents approximately 181,000 future, active and retired teachers and school employees, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.