University of Minnesota

International Graduate Assistants:

Many international graduate students on campus have had questions about the efforts of the United Auto Workers of America, using the name Graduate Student Workers United, to unionize the graduate assistants at the University of Minnesota.

Specifically, you have asked: Am I required to sign a card? The answer is NO.

The law in Minnesota provides workers the ability to seek an election to determine whether a union will represent them. The first step is for at least 30 percent of the impacted workers, in this case, graduate assistants, to sign cards, which is why many of you have been approached and asked to sign a card. You have the right to choose whether or not to sign a card in support of the union. It is important to note that your decision will not impact your immigration status or your student status.

To ensure that you have accurate information going forward, the Office of Human Resources is continuously updating the online Frequently Asked Questions. Copied below are the FAQs that pertain specifically to international students. Please review this information and contact us if you have further questions or concerns.

Meredith McQuaid, Associate Vice President for International Programs
Barbara Kappler, Interim Director, International Student and Scholar Services

Will my immigration status be impacted if I sign or don't sign a union card?
No. People from the union may ask you to sign a union card in order to hold an election, however you do not have to sign a card if you don't want to. The regulations governing your F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant status do not require you to join a union and do not prohibit you from joining a union.

Will my immigration status be impacted if I join the union?
No. If a union is elected, union membership has no affect positive or negative on immigration status.

Can the union help me with my visa?
No, you are still subject to the same regulations governing your F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant visa status whether you join a union or not. The advisers in International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) are made up of Designated School Officials (F-1) and Alternate Responsible Officers (J-1); these are individuals who are appointed by the University and approved by the U.S. government. The DSO and ARO's are the ones who represent the University in all F-1 and J-1 matters, and are responsible for providing service and advice to students.

Can a union negotiate or resolve visa regulations and other financial aid issues for me?
No. The United Auto Workers cannot negotiate or resolve visa regulations, financial aid issues, or any items related to your status as a student.

Will joining a union result in a waiver of the international student fee?
No. This is a student fee charged to all international students, whether they are employed as graduate assistants or not. It is used to support the costs of visa and counseling services, and is not a matter that the union and the University must negotiate. The fee is set by the Board of Regents and is collected by the Bursars Office.

Can a labor union protect my right to stay in this country and to continue my education at the University of Minnesota?
No. A labor union, if elected, will be limited to representing only your rights as an employee in the collective bargaining process at the University. A labor union has no authority over protecting your visa status or your status as a student. You are still subject to the rules and regulations governing your F-1 or J-1 non-immigrant visa. You are still subject to the University of Minnesota Student Code of Conduct.

Will joining the union result in the University being bound to supplying only the minimum student information required under U.S. law?
The University currently supplies only the minimum student information about international students required under U.S. law.

Do international graduate assistants have a voice in the University system without having union representation?
Yes. Without a union, international graduate assistants have individual voices and a collective voice through such organizations as COGS and GAPSA.

This e-mail was sent by International Student & Scholar Services at the University of Minnesota.

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