CORVALLIS - Oregon State University graduate assistants have approved a move to unionize. A tally of mail-in ballots by the Oregon Employment Relations Board shows that of 482 valid votes cast, 316 graduate assistants approved the move to be represented by the Coalition of Graduate Employees, American Federation of Teachers - Oregon, AFL/CIO.

About 64 percent of the 754 eligible voters cast ballots in the election, which started Oct. 21 and ended Nov. 4. Of those voters, 66 percent said yes to the representation proposal and 166 graduate assistants voted for no representation.

A simple majority of the ballots cast was all that was needed to determine the success of the unionization proposal, said Sally K. Francis, interim dean of the OSU Graduate School.

"Throughout this process the university has supported graduate assistants' right to vote regarding representation by a union," said Roy Arnold, OSU provost and executive vice president. "Last Friday's election outcome indicates that the majority of those students who voted are in favor of representation by the Coalition of Graduate Employees."

State employment board rules specify that either party may file objections regarding the conduct of the election or conduct that affected the results of the election. Objections must be filed within 10 days after the vote tally, or by Nov. 15 for this election.

"We will not file objections to the election and have begun the process of preparing for bargaining with the CGE," Arnold said.

The formal move to unionize OSU graduate assistants began with health insurance issues raised by the OSU Coalition of Graduate Students, which was formed in January, 1998. The coalition is a group of OSU graduate students affiliated with the AFT.

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Jacquelyn Rudolph, 541-737-3103