Academic student employees, who carry out a significant share of teaching and research responsibilities on university campuses, announced today an online petition drive to back legislation which will grant full collective bargaining rights for academic workers at private sector colleges and universities.
The petition, which is online at www.ipetitions.com/petition/TA_rights/ calls for member of Congress to join in sponsoring the Teaching and Research Collective Bargaining Rights Act, sponsored by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.
Major legislative leaders are co-sponsors of the bill, including Democratic Presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Sens. Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, both New York Democrats.
"This is a great opportunity to build support for real change that will benefit tens of thousands of teaching assistants, research assistants, and other academic workers on hundreds of college and university campuses," said Rana Jaleel, a teaching assistant at New York University. "In uncertain economic times, a union contract is an important protection for workers and their families -- including academic workers."
In January 2002 teaching and research assistants at NYU, who are members of UAW Local 2110, became the first-ever academic student employees at a private U.S. university to negotiate a signed collective bargaining agreement. The NYU contract included significant pay raises, employer-paid health care, increases in stipends for child care and other benefits.
In a narrow, partisan 3-2 decision in 2004, [Brown University, 342 NLRB 483 (2004)] however, Bush appointees to the National Labor Relations Board called into question the collective bargaining rights of private sector academic student employees, and NYU administrators refused to negotiate a new agreement.
Following the Brown decision, organizing campaigns on several college campuses were halted, and thousands of ballots cast by academic student employees at Columbia, Brown, Tufts and other schools were impounded and never counted.
In July the International Labor Organization, an agency of the United Nations which includes business, labor and government representatives, issued a report finding that the 2004 NLRB Brown decision violates international labor standards of freedom of association.
"The ILO decision and the legislative remedy it calls for are crucial steps in the struggle for true equality of opportunity and real academic freedom at private universities in this country," said Ariana Paulson of the Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO), the organizing representing academic student employees at Yale University. "Graduate employees at Yale, along with our colleagues in the academic labor movement, have been fighting for this for nearly 20 years and we're tremendously excited to see the momentum building around this bill."
"The NLRB got it wrong in the Brown decision, and we're going to make it right," said UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn, who directs the union's Technical, Office, and Professional (TOP) Organizing Department. "Academic student employees make a significant contribution to higher education, and they have every right to a voice in the decisions that affect their lives."
The Teaching and Research Collective Bargaining Rights Act is supported by a wide range of unions with members currently working in higher education, including the UAW, the American Federation of Teachers, UNITE-HERE, the Communication Workers of America and the American Association of University Professors, as well as the AFL-CIO.
More than 30,000 UAW members work as teaching assistants, research assistants, tutors, readers, graders and post-doctoral researchers on campuses across the United States, including the California State University, the University of California, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Washington.