The Princeton graduate students who campaigned for unionization last spring are continuing to rally support for their cause but declined to say whether or when a vote to unionize might take place.
The current plan for Princeton Graduate Students United (PGSU), the group driving the unionization campaign, is to “keep talking to people and to keep connecting with new students who’ve arrived this semester,” according to Tim Alberdingk Thijm, a sixth-year computer science student and PGSU organizer.
As of late October, Alberdingk Thijm said 1,700 Princeton graduate students — representing more than half of the graduate student body — had signed cards signaling their desire to form a union. It’s the same number
of cards PGSU reported last spring, though the total now includes new signers and subtracts those who have since graduated (whose cards are no longer valid).
PGSU originally formed in 2016, but its campaign didn’t start in earnest until 2021. The last two years have seen a wave of successful graduate student unionization campaigns at schools including MIT, Johns Hopkins, and Dartmouth, and Alberdingk Thijm said in the spring that the Biden administration’s National Labor Relations Board has been friendlier to student unionization efforts.
In a recent interview with PAW, Alberdingk Thijm said PGSU has continued to talk to fellow graduate students about their priorities and concerns and hold small social events. The group has had no direct contact with the University.
Alberdingk Thijm and Gaby Nair, a fourth-year politics student, wrote an op-ed published in late October by The Daily Princetonian in response to a Prince news story from earlier that month that cited anonymous graduate students from the Operations Research and Financial Engineering (ORFE) department speaking out about difficulties in finding an adviser after a record number of students were admitted to the program in 2021.
Alberdingk Thijm told PAW the ORFE story is evidence that “there’s these big issues at Princeton today around how students are treated, how their department supports them,” and since departments have different policies and resources, the problem “needs solutions and … action from grads to protect one another and to stand up together so that we have a real say in how the University operates.”
Alberdingk Thijm said PGSU will determine its next steps based on “whether or not there’s a feeling that this is a representative group of people and there’s a representative sense of support” for a union.
“No matter where this process goes, it’s been very valuable for us to just build this network of support and community at Princeton to help address these issues,” said Alberdingk Thijm, who added he has full confidence the campaign “will lead to a graduate worker union at Princeton and pay off tremendously for all grads.”