Rank and File Democracy Caucus

About the RFDC

We are pro-union, pro-democracy graduate students who believe in the power of organized labor to benefit the lives of workers, at Cornell and beyond.

We are united by the fact that we believe the power of Cornell Graduate Students United must rest with its membership, and the organizing strategies of our union should reflect a bottom-up, democratic, and transparent approach to building labor power.

As members in currently existing committees of CGSU, we saw these principles affirmed in discourse, but often circumvented in practice, and suppressed by our affiliate unions AFT/NYSUT.

We are a self-initiated group coming together under the Rank and File Democracy Caucus, a part of CGSU. We are committed to advocating for establishing and furthering rank-and-file democracy, autonomy, and transparency within CGSU. We are part of CGSU and we are open to all CGSU members who are in agreement with these principles.

We fully share CGSU’s criticism of the Administration’s practice; these criticisms are laid out on the CGSU website (no employment protection, uncertainty of workers compensation, limited childcare benefits, broken Cornell grievance process, and more). The Rank and File Democracy Caucus is committed to work within CGSU to disclose the shortcomings of the Administration’s practice concerning graduate labor workers as well as demanding that graduate workers have a binding voice in determining their working conditions.

However, the caucus also differs from CGSU on some important points. For instance, we don’t automatically assume faculty to be part of management unless they sanction harmful and unsafe working conditions, extend or commit workplace pressure (largely known as mobbing) upon graduate workers, and abuse their power (overworking, thus undercompensating graduate workers, discriminating against graduate workers on the basis of sex, gender, age, nationality, class or race, compromising graduate workers’ right to unionize on campus, etc.). Faculty are workers too (in fact, faculty are unionized in numerous other universities across the US and we only wish Cornell faculty to unionize as well) and can be potent allies in our struggle for a democratic workplace. Instead, it is the Board of Trustees and the growing list of Deans which we consider to be management.

Further, we are critical of the fact that during the entire election campaign, CGSU’s focus has been reduced to only those in the “bargaining unit.” Graduate workers who were not eligible to vote (those on fellowships, or in professional schools for instance) were overlooked and ignored. We stand against extending this division forced upon us by the university, which categorizes us as “inside” or “outside” of the bargaining unit, and advocate for an all-inclusive approach in engagement, practice, and hearing voices of the CGSU members. Unionization is about building workplace power collectively, not about whom the university ultimately granted the right to vote in a recognition election.

Principles :
Contact Us

Interested in joining us/learning more? All CGSU members or Cornell community members who are interested in CGSU are welcome at our weekly meeting.