By TONIA HILL
University of Chicago (U. of C.) student library employees won an election to unionize, Thursday, June 8, with 80 percent of voters supporting affiliation with Teamsters Local 743.
Teamsters Local 743 is a local labor union and assisted the collective organized by Student Library Employees Union (SLEU). Teamsters Local 743 delivered the SLEU’s interest cards to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) offices in Chicago last month.
About 93 student library employees voted in an election that was held between June 2, and June 8. The NLRB conducted the vote, 67 voted in favor and 13 against. University administration challenged 13 graduate student votes because of an overlap with the graduate student unionization process that is taking place on campus.
Graduate Students United (GSU) the graduate worker labor union at the university is also seeking unionization. The group filed a separate petition for a union election with the NLRB last month as well.
The SLEU’s petition called for an election to determine whether student library employees can unionize and obtain the legal right to negotiate with the university on issues regarding employee wages, hours, and third party legal representation in cases of Title IX, ADA (American Disability Act) and labor violations.
According to May 8 article in the Herald, Anjali Dhillon, a second-year U. of C. student and organizer for the SLEU, said the organization had been gathering interest cards from students since January of this year.
“As one of the coordinators for SLEU, I’m of course thrilled about the election results, but I am especially excited for what this means for me as a student worker, where having a voice in collective bargaining will really impact my relationship with the university,” said second-year Katie McPolin, a student worker at Eckhart Library. “Student labor makes the day-to-day functioning of this university possible, so it is imperative that student workers should have a voice in how it functions,”
Students claim that their wages are too low and that their hours are irregular for part-time student library employees who are in need of a “secure source of income, with some taking on second jobs outside of the university system to cover expenses necessary to receive an education.”
SLEU will negotiate with the university for a contract that “prioritizes issues such as employee wages, hours, and third-party legal representation in cases of Title IX, ADA and labor violations. Students say that only as unionized workers will they be able to protect their rights as well as fully engage in the academic mission of the University of Chicago,” the students said in a written statement.
SLEU will be the first nationally recognized union undergraduate and graduate union at a private university.