UAW alleges University committed unfair election practices


Following a heated union election that resulted in a failed attempt for graduate student workers, the United Auto Workers are alleging the University of Minnesota committed unfair election practices that affected the outcome of the election.

The union was voted down in late March by about 62 percent of graduate student employees. Of the 4,400 eligible workers, about 68 percent voted.

Richard Kaspari, attorney for the Graduate Student Workers United/UAW filed the charge of unfair election practices with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services last week. He said the University continuously characterized union speech in the workplace as harassment, through a memo and their FAQ page, affecting the outcome of the union election.

The University has communicated through the online FAQ page on the University’s Office of Human Resources website that organization or discussion of a union in the workplace is prohibited. In two letters to the GSWU/UAW last fall, Shelley Carthen Watson, associate general counsel at the University wrote that union organizers “may not solicit in University workplaces during work time.” The letter claimed that graduate student employees had “harassed” their peers.

The Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services put into effect a maintenance of the status quo order, which means all wages, hours and existing conditions of employment cannot be changed and threats or promises to change these conditions are also prohibited.  

The University’s Office of Human Resources sent out an email to all graduate student employees on the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses Tuesday, saying that “the University cannot make changes to terms and conditions of employment, including pay increases, until the Maintenance of Status Quo order is lifted.”

But Kaspari disagrees, saying all planned pay increases or processes that would lead to a pay increase must go through, otherwise it’s a violation of the law.

“That’s complete baloney,” Kaspari said. “By making that announcement and by blaming it on the filing of the election challenge, the University’s just committing one more anti-union violation of the law.”

[See below for a PDF of the Unfair Election Filing.]