The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board has ruled that graduate assistants at Pennsylvania State University are employees of the university and can organize as a union.
The 30-page order, dated Tuesday, followed several days of hearings in September, during which the university argued against the graduate assistants' being recognized as employees. The Coalition of Graduate Employees filed its petition to the board last February.
In a Facebook post Friday, the coalition cheered the ruling: "In the eyes of Pennsylvania we are officially workers!"
"We're looking forward to exercising our right to vote [in a union-organizing] election, and we're confident that it's a vote we'll win," said Katie Warczak, media official for the coalition.
In a statement Friday night, the university said it "will continue to follow the PLRB process, however, we are disappointed by the decision and are evaluating all our options going forward."
Jerome Clarke, the coalition's co-president, said: "Penn State's administrators spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to deny us this vote."
The coalition said an election date would be forthcoming.
The university added: "It is important to note that results of any election will be determined by the majority of those who vote, not by the majority of graduate students. Penn State encourages all eligible students to vote and make their voices heard when the election occurs."