What is the Coalition of Graduate Workers?

The Coalition of Graduate Workers (CGW) is a graduate employee union for workers at the University of Missouri-Columbia, affiliated with the Missouri National Education Association. CGW works to ensure all graduate employees have dignified working conditions and just compensation for their labor. CGW also works for social justice and equality at the University of Missouri.

How was CGW formed?

CGW arose out of the grassroots graduate student rights movement that came in the wake of the health insurance crisis of August 2015 with the goal of securing a collectively-bargained contract that would prevent future crises. CGW originally acted as the Organizing Committee of the Forum on Graduate Rights (FGR); upon our affiliation with MNEA, we became an independent union local. We continue to work closely with FGR to better the lives of graduate employees and members of the University of Missouri community.

What is being voted on at the union authorization election?

Graduate student employees will be asked to vote on whether they authorize the Coalition of Graduate Workers to act as their exclusive representative for the purpose of collective bargaining. If a majority of those voting say “Yes,” it will authorize the Coalition of Graduate Workers to act as representatives for contract negotiations.

When is the union authorization election happening?

The CGW union authorization election will take place on April 18th and 19th. Polling stations will be located at Memorial Union and the Student Center. Polls will be open between 7 AM and 6 PM on both days.

What do I need to bring to the polls?

Please bring your student ID or other photo identification.

Is this election legal?

Yes. This election has been organized according to best practices for public sector education unions under Missouri law. Due to the University of Missouri’s stance on the employment status of graduate employees, the results may not be immediately recognized, but the election process itself is completely legal.

Who is running the election?

The Columbia chapter of the League of Women Voters (LWV) will operate the election and certify its results. LWV previously operated the union authorization election between the Columbia National Education Association and the Columbia Public Schools District, and both sides were extremely satisfied with their services. Neither CGW nor the University of Missouri administration will ever handle the ballots.

Who is eligible to vote?

All graduate employees of the University of Missouri – Columbia, excepting professional students, are eligible to vote. This includes graduate fellows.

What if I don’t have an ID, or if I do not appear on the employee list?

You will still be allowed to vote with a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots will be set aside and considered in the event that they would prove determinative to the election results.

Will there be absentee voting?

Unfortunately no. Absentee ballots are very rarely used in union representation elections, and the election is being run according to best practices, so we will not be able to accommodate absentee ballots.

Will the University of Missouri recognize the results of this election?

We hope that it will. The University of Missouri system administration maintains that there is “legal uncertainty” as to whether they are required to recognize a graduate employee union, regardless of the results of the election. CGW and Missouri state law maintain that they are able to, in the absence of a clear precedent, recognize the results of the election.

What process led to this election?

Beginning in the fall semester, CGW began collecting vote authorization signature cards from graduate workers at the University of Missouri. By mid-February, CGW had collected signature cards from a majority of graduate workers at MU, significantly more than the best practices guideline of 30% of the bargaining unit. Because many graduate employees will leave MU at the end of the academic year, it was deemed imperative that we hold an election before the summer break. To avoid conflicts with final examinations and other end-of-semester business, the election was scheduled for late April.

If the election succeeds, will I be forced to join the union?

No. Membership in CGW is completely voluntary. Membership does, however, allow for participation in CGW’s business meetings, among other benefits.

Will there be any negative consequences to participating in this election?

Absolutely not. It is illegal to retaliate against employees for engaging in union activity, including this union authorization election. This applies to all employees, regardless of their citizenship or visa status.

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