Graduate Employees and Students Organization

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Full name Graduate Employees and Students Organization
Founded 1990
Affiliation UNITE HERE
Country United States
Website GESO Website
GESO protest at Yale University, 2005

The Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO) is a group of graduate student teachers and researchers that is trying to be recognized as a union at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. If recognized, GESO would be the second graduate student union at a private university, following GSOC, or the Graduate Student Organizing Committee at New York University.[1][2]

GESO is affiliated with UNITE HERE as a constituent member of the Federation of Hospital and University Employees, which also includes food service and maintenance workers, clerical and technical workers, and employees of Yale-New Haven Hospital's dietary unit.

In 2014, GESO took its campaign public at a rally on October 21, unveiling a petition with the photographs of over 1000 graduate students calling on Yale to negotiate the terms of a neutral election.[3] GESO is asking Yale to address three main issues: fairness in teaching and funding; mental healthcare for graduate students; and racial and gender equity, both within the graduate student population and the Yale faculty.[4]

GESO has received support from many prominent academics, including Professors Cornell West,[5] Corey Robin,[6] Hazel Carby,[7] Michael Denning,[8] David Graeber,[9] and Michael Bérubé,[10] and elected officials, including Governor Dannel Malloy, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, and US Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.[3]

Origin and history[edit]

The group's precursor, T.A. Solidarity, was founded in 1987. T.A. Solidarity members voted to affiliate with other campus unions in the Spring of 1990, seeking union recognition and collective bargaining, and adopting their current nomenclature.

In 1995, in a non-legally binding election under the supervision of the League of Women Voters, 600 graduate students voted for GESO to represent them as a formal labor union, while 168 voted against. The Yale administration refused to recognize the results of an election, prompting a grade-strike by the graduate students. [11]

In March, 2003, GESO members joined members of campus unions in a one week strike, in an attempt to gain recognition as a collective bargaining agent from the Yale University administration.

In April 2003, following the divisive strike-vote, GESO again held a voluntary, not legally binding, election under the supervision of the League of Women Voters. This time, GESO narrowly lost the election, with graduate students voting 694 to 651 against making GESO their collective bargaining agent.[12] Additionally, there were also 27 write in ballots which stated that they supported the idea of unionization, but did not support GESO as that union.[13]

Early in 2005, GESO released a report on diversity in the Ivies, entitled “The (Un) Changing Face of the Ivy League.” [14] According to The Harvard Crimson, the report stated that "women and minorities are being hired disproportionately as lecturers, associate professors, or other 'non-ladder' positions, while the percentage of minority tenured faculty, on average, has increased by one percentage point in a decade. This gives the illusion of diversity, while in fact maintaining 'bastions of inequality.'" [15]

The report states that "universities have thus created a two-tiered system: one tier, overwhelmingly white and disproportionately male, is characterized by secure, well-compensated, higher status tenured and tenure-track positions; the other is the world of insecure, poorly-paid, part-time and impermanent jobs, to which women and people of color have been largely relegated." [15]

In April 2005, GESO voted to go on strike, but the actual breakdown of this vote was not released.[16]

In December 2005, GESO won a victory in their own elections.[17] Once again, the university administration refused to recognize the results of the election.

GESO has since mounted and won campaigns over pay equity in graduate programs,[18][19][20] alleged human rights violations in the university's investment policies,[21][22] equal treatment for international students,[23] and improved health care benefits.[24] It continues to push for recognition from the university, to organize for better job prospects and working conditions in academia, and against what members see as an increasingly corporate university system.[25]

In 2011, GESO released a report entitled, "Yale Inc.: The Corporate Model in Higher Education," criticizing the university for following larger "corporatization" trends in higher education including decreased faculty governance and increased reliance on adjunct labor.[26][27]

In 2012, GESO hosted a conference on academic labor entitled, "The Changing University: An Interdisciplinary Symposium." Professors from multiple universities attended, including Corey Robin, Michael Denning, Irene Mulvey, Beverly Gage, Gregory Petsko, Charity Schmidt, and Jennifer Klein.[28]

In 2014, GESO re-emerged with two "majority petition" rallies. The first, held on April 30, presented a petition to the Yale administration with over 1000 signatures of graduate students.[29] The second, on October 21, 2014, presented a petition with over 1000 photographs of graduate students paired with allies from the local unions, the community, and elected officials, including Governor Dannel Malloy, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, and US Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.[30]

On February 26, 2015, GESO released a report on the expansion of Yale College, entitled "Teaching in a Growing Yale: Critical Questions."[31][32] According to the Yale Daily News, the report calls "attention to the lack of women and people of color in FAS ladder faculty positions compared to non-ladder faculty positions. For women, those numbers are 29 percent to 43.4 percent respectively. Self-reported people of color make up 16.1 percent of ladder faculty, compared to 25.3 percent of non-ladder faculty."[32]

According to the YDN, "the report also addressed how the influx of 800 more undergraduates without “scaling up” the size of the faculty would increase competition for coveted seats in the classroom. Indicating that there has been no increase in the past six years in the overall pool of ladder and non-ladder faculty from which almost all teaching faculty are drawn the report poses the simple question of who will teach future undergraduates."[32]

On May 5, 2015, GESO presented a petition with over 1100 signatures to the university.[4] The petition calls on Yale to "begin contract negotiations on issues of immediate concern including funding security, racial and gender equity, and mental health care."[33]


Several hundred graduate students from humanities and social sciences at Yale and Columbia universities went on a teaching strike for five days in April 2005[16] to demand recognition from their universities less than a year after the National Labor Relations Board denied them of protections under the National Labor Relations Act, reversing an earlier precedent, decided in 2000, that graduate employees at New York University were workers and thus entitled to said protections. University officials have stated that the strike had "minimal impact" on the operations of the school.[34] Jesse Jackson made a brief appearance on behalf of GESO.[35] The university has stated that it will continue its previous policy and will not bargain with GESO.[30]

See also[edit]


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  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b
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  12. ^ "Grad Students Reject Union In Yale Vote". New York Times. 2003-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-14. 
  13. ^ "Graduate Students Vote Down Unionization". Yale Daily News. 2003-05-01. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ a b "Questions Linger After GESOs Vote". Yale Daily News. 2005-04-15. Retrieved 2014-05-14. 
  17. ^ "Yale Daily News Earth to Geso Efforts to Unionize are Lost Cause". Yale Daily News. 2005-01-12. Retrieved 2014-05-13. 
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  23. ^, parental leave
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  25. ^ "Grad Students to the Barricades". 
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  30. ^ a b
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  32. ^ a b c
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