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Academic Student Employees hail major NLRB ruling

‘Today’s ruling is a win for those of us who know that we are workers.’


The following is from UAW Local 4121:

UAW4121-rally15-frontSEATTLE (Aug. 24, 2016) — In a 3-1 decision on Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overturned a 2004 decision and ruled that Graduate Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants at private institutions have the right to organize and collectively bargain. This case was filed by Academic Student Employees (ASEs) who organized unions with the United Auto Workers (UAW) at Columbia University and The New School in New York, and is the second NLRB decision favorable to workers organizing in higher education this year.

“Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Readers and Tutors are critical to our nation’s universities, yet many university administrations want to treat us simply as students and deny that what we’re doing is work,” said Sam Sumpter, a Teaching Assistant at the University of Washington. “They want to minimize our power to achieve fair treatment. Today’s ruling is a win for those of us who know that we are workers, deserving of fair pay, rights and protections.”

UAW-4121“UAW has been at the forefront of organizing academic workers, many of the smartest and hardest working individuals at universities whose contributions are too often significantly greater than what is reflected in their compensation,” said David Parsons, President of UAW 4121, which represents ASEs at University of Washington. “At UW, Academic Student Employees have been part of UAW since 2004, and as a result are now earning $1,000 more per month, as well as paying less in student fees and winning meaningful rights and protections that make the university a more just and inclusive place to work and study. We are thrilled to welcome more academic workers to UAW; it means we all have a stronger voice in improving standards for all.”

Since 2010, UAW has been the union of choice for nearly 12,000 higher education workers seeking representation at public universities across the country. As colleges and universities rely more on contingent and temporary workers, more and more have been organizing in order to address short and long-term challenges.

The NLRB decision comes just weeks after several hundred postdoctoral scholars working at UC Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory submitted a petition with the State’s Public Employment Relations Board to join UAW Local 5810, which represents postdoctoral scholars at University of California.

Many universities across the country have resisted the efforts of higher education workers choosing to form unions. Yale, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Stanford filed an amicus brief with the NLRB to oppose the position of the Academic Student Employees wanting to organize. But today’s decision rebukes such opposition, creating a basis for Graduate Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants at private institutions to follow those at public institutions and form unions and collectively bargain.

For more information, visit UAW 4121’s website.

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