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Asking about student union during interviews?

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I know grad student unions can be pretty contentious with the administration and faculty. I have an interview/campus visit coming up at a school where it looks like there's a group of students who are currently working towards forming a union. I don't know what my schedule's gonna be quite yet but I'm assuming there will be opportunities to talk with current students considering there are activities planned over 3 days. I'd definitely avoid asking faculty, but is it strange to ask students about the union?

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From my experience, this stage, where thee's no union yet but plans exist to form one is a very tricky/contentious stage. Things get a lot better after a union is actually formed and agreements made and people realise that while there are changes, it's not actually the end of the world! It may even be better for everyone!

My answer would be to probably avoid bringing up the topic. It shouldn't be taboo but since the topic is often quite contentious, it is an awkward topic to discuss with strangers. You don't know who is going to be pro or anti union, even amongst the students, and for a visit weekend/interview, it's probably a topic best avoided. In addition, even if you really really needed to know something about the union in order to make the decision (for some reason), it's not certain that the students you are talking to would know the answer and even if there is an answer now, it might change by the time you actually start. At this stage, things are likely still much in flux. It might be years into your PhD before the union actually ratifies and negotiates a contract. When making your decision, my advice would be to not consider the union. 

Finally, I am guessing it's not a secret that the students want to unionize since you know about it (unless you know this info through a connection or something). But during this process, not everyone knows every detail. The organizing team would know the most and unless you happen to talk to someone on the team, you might not get all the info anyways. Plus, they might not want to tell an outsider, since they don't really know what you would do with the information.


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