Fact Sheet – Unionization Process Under Pennsylvania Law

What are authorization cards? How are they used in the unionization process?
Authorization cards are written declarations signed by members of a potential bargaining unit stating that they authorize a particular union to be their exclusive representative for the purposes of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment with their employer. These cards are generally not revocable, so it is important to have all the facts before signing them. It is important to remember that each eligible voter is always free to vote however he or she wants in the secret ballot election, regardless of whether the voter has previously signed an authorization card.

How does the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) process work after a petition for representation is filed?
The PLRB will hold hearings before a Hearing Examiner to determine whether graduate students are employees under the Pennsylvania Employe Relations Act (PERA), and if so, whether the unit proposed by the union is appropriate under the law.

If the PLRB were to determine that graduate students were employees under the law, an election would be ordered in the unit determined appropriate by the PLRB.

Who would get to vote in an election, if one takes place?
It is unclear. It would depend on the PLRB’s determination on employee status of graduate students and the definition of the bargaining unit determined by the PLRB. The petition which was filed seeks to represent all graduate assistants and fellows.

Is it important that I vote if I am eligible to vote?
Yes. If an election is ordered, every eligible person should vote because the election outcome is determined by the majority of those who vote, not a majority of those eligible to vote. Thus, union representation for non-voters will be decided by those who vote. This is a decision that could affect all graduate students and future students.