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grads respond to admin decision against grad teaching assistants

hear what various grads have to say about bush admin decision to ban grads from protections under federal labor law
Local 2322 (U-Mass Amherst) Outraged at NLRB's Decision to Deny Protections of Federal Labor Law to Graduate Teaching and Research Assistants

AMHERST, Mass. (July 16, 2004)—UAW Local 2322, which represents 2,500 graduate student employees at University of Massachusetts Amherst, is condemning a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board that graduate teaching assistants are not employees covered by federal labor law.

The NLRB concluded that graduate student Teaching and Research assistants in the private sector are primarily students, and do not qualify for the protections under federal labor law afforded most workers.

"This decision shows that the NLRB is out of touch with reality," said James A.W. Shaw, a graduate assistant in the department of sociology. "Graduate employees are workers like any other, and deserve the right to form a union just like any other worker."

Graduate TAs and RAs pay taxes, and are covered by workers' compensation, health and safety laws, and other workplace laws. The NLRB is now the only government agency that refuses to recognize graduate employee's employee status.

The decision covers only graduate employees in the private sector, and does not affect graduate students in the public sector, such as those who work at UMass Amherst. Graduate employees at UMass Amherst have been organized since 1989.

"TAs and RAs at UMass have greatly benefited from having a voice in their working conditions through unionization," said Jennifer Turner, president of Local 2322's Graduate Employee Organization (GEO), which represents graduate TAs and RAs. "It's clearly anti-union for the NLRB to take away the right of collective bargaining, which has improved the working lives of graduate employees across the country."

"The NLRB's decision has revealed yet again the anti-union agenda of the Bush administration," said Ron Patenaude, president of UAW Local 2322. "This decision was openly partisan, and reflects George Bush's mission to undermine labor unions."

The original decision to grant collective bargaining rights to TAs and RAs in the private sector was made by a bipartisan panel of the NLRB under the Clinton Administration.

"All of the union's legal and moral arguments were right on," Shaw said. "However, these Bush appointees allowed their extreme right-wing ideology to interfere with their duty to uphold the National Labor Relations Act."

GEO's history highlights the fact that this NLRB ruling actually does not prohibit graduate employees at private universities to form unions. In 1977, the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission (MLRC) ruled that graduate employees at UMass Amherst were not employees and could not form legally recognized unions, just as the NLRB ruled this week. In 1989, however, graduate employees at UMass organized and demanded that the university voluntarily recognize the union.

After a strike, UMass conceded to an election sponsored by a private agency, rather than the government. For four years, UMass and the UAW had a bargaining relationship with each other that included negotiating numerous union contracts. All of this happened even though the state government at that time refused to recognize the right of graduate employees to form a union (In 1994, the MLRC ultimately recognized that right.)

"Despite the NLRB's ruling, we hope that graduate employees at Brown, Columbia, Penn and other campuses continue their fight," Shaw added. "Forming a union is a fundamental human right recognized by most nations and the United Nations. Grad TAs and RAs at private campuses should not be deterred by a Republican administration's wrongheaded decision. Rather, they should fight on."


AFT Convention Delegates React With Outrage to NLRB Decision
Overturning Right of Private University TAs to Join Unions
Penn Graduate Employee Unionists Continue Struggle for Recognition

Washington, DC/Philadelphia, PA—The 3,000 delegates to the American
Federation of Teachers convention reacted with anger and shouts of "No!"
when the union's executive vice president, Nat LaCour, told delegates that
the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had, minutes earlier, overturned a
November 2000 board decision giving private university teaching and research
assistants the right to join a union.

Graduate employees in public universities have organized unions since the
end of the 1960s. In private universities, however, their right to organize
was unclear until the 2000 NLRB decision involving New York University
guaranteed that right.

"Today's NLRB ruling is outrageous. This must change," LaCour told the
convention.

AFT Secretary-Treasurer Edward J. McElroy said, "Graduate employees are
obviously workers who deserve the same rights as their counterparts in
public universities. If a member of the NLRB can't recognize a worker when
they see one, they shouldn't be on a national labor board."

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi D-CA, speaking at the AFT
convention, said graduate employees "should have the same rights as all
workers. They are not second-class citizens. This is a shameful disregard
for the rights of these employees."

The AFT has represented graduate employees in the public sector for more
than three decades. The union represents teaching and research assistants at
14 major public universities, including the University of Wisconsin, the
University of Michigan, the University of Florida and the City University of
New York.

In public universities, unlike private institutions, graduate employees who
teach or conduct research fall under state labor laws and not the National
Labor Relations Act. State labor boards or supreme courts in 13 states have
ruled previously that graduate employees are workers and have the right to
form unions.

In the private sector, the AFT recently organized teaching and research
assistants at the University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy League
institution. The university has refused repeatedly to recognize the election
held there in 2003 until the NLRB reviewed its earlier decision giving
private university graduate employees the same rights as graduate employees
in public institutions.

Penn graduate employee and union organizer Lauren Nauta expressed outrage at
the decision. "We intend to continue our struggle for a voice in our
working conditions. We will not allow this clearly partisan decision to
dissuade our efforts to gain recognition for our union and bargain a fair
contract with the University of Pennsylvania."

The American Federation of Teachers represents 1.3 million members,
including 150,000 college and university faculty. AFT membership also
includes 12,000 graduate employees.



Graduate Employees and Students Organization (GESO), UNITE-HERE at Yale University


New Haven, CT
Graduate teachers and researchers at Yale University were outraged to hear that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had decided to strip graduate student employees of their rights in a case involving Brown University. "The three Republican NLRB members who wrote this decision are denying the will of thousands of graduate teachers and researchers who voted at Brown, Columbia, Tufts, and U. Penn. The NLRB is supposed to help workers, not show them the door", commented Mary Reynolds, Chair of GESO and graduate teacher in American Studies.

At Yale, GESO has been seeking to form a union since 1991. For the first nine years of its existence, thousands of graduate teachers and researchers joined GESO and effectively fought to unionize without being explicitly recognized as employees by the NLRB.

Academics at private universities will have to once again find an alternative to the Board, at least during the Bush administration. Many unions, including unions of graduate teachers and researchers, have organized outside the jurisdiction of state and federal labor law. When the Massachusetts Labor Relations Commission ruled that graduate teachers and researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst were not employees, graduate workers organized the Graduate Employees Organization and successfully demanded that the university voluntarily recognize the union.

The problems facing young academics in today's universities will not go away as a result of the NLRB's politically-motivated decision. At a conference in September 2003 sponsored by GESO, labor experts (including former NLRB chair Fred Feinstein) and academics from across the country convened in New Haven to form the Academic Labor Board (ALB). They listened to testimony by graduate teachers and researchers and faculty about Yale's stance on unionization, and its chilling effect on academic freedom on campus, in part because of the uncertain and sluggish nature of the NLRB. In the statement that they issued thereafter, the ALB wrote: "We note with regret that the consequence of the administration's position, if sustained by the NLRB, is that serious
charges of intimidation and interference with expressional freedom raised by GESO's supporters will never receive any sort of adjudicative hearing. Whatever decision the NLRB makes, the issue at stake here will not go away."

GESO pledges to continue to organize and win bargaining rights for graduate teachers and researchers at all universities. We condemn the short-sighted attempts of a few to stand in the way of the rights of many.


SUNY Research Foundation Employees Refute Brown University NLRB Decision


Issues of University and other Research Employers profits and financial gains from the Patients, Licensing agreements and copy rights that our work provides our employers is the point here, not one's concurrent enrollment. The NLRB has missed the boat. This issue is far from over and CWA Local 1104 Graduates Workers will do what it takes to win recognition and we stand behind the Brown workers in their efforts to do the same.



Partisan NLRB Reverses NYU Decision, Says Grad Students at Private
Universities Have No Right to Unionize
by GSEU
 http://nyc.indymedia.org/feature/display/97380/index.php


Today, the National Labor Relations Board issued a 3-2 decision reversing
the legal precedent granting graduate student employees the right to form a
union and declaring that under federal law, graduate student assistants are
not employees.
In addition to affecting students at Columbia, The University of
Pennsylvania, and Brown, NYU may no longer recognize its Graduate Student
Union when their contract expires in a year. Unlike the NYU decision, which
was unanimous, this decision broke along partisan lines with the 3
Republican appointees expressing the majority opinion and the 2 Democratic
appointees forcefully dissenting. In its decision, the Republican majority
rejected the precedent set in the NYU case and the decisions reached by
multiple Regional Labor Board Directors. Instead, it invoked outdated
decisions from the 1970s, ignoring the realities of academia today. The
decision, which claims to rescue us from "the imposition" of having a
contract, argues that the relationship between
TAS and RAs and the universities for which they work is not economic.

The dissenting opinion, written by the two Democratic appointees, disagreed
strongly, saying, "the majority's reasons, at bottom, amount to the claim
that graduate student collective bargaining is simply incompatible with the
nature and mission of the university. This revelation will surely come as a
surprise on many campuses - not least, at New York University, a first rate
institution where graduate students now work under a collective bargaining
agreement reached in the wake of the decision that is overruled here."

It goes on to say: "Today's decision is woefully out of touch with
contemporary academic reality... It disregards the plain language of the
statute - which defines employees so broadly that graduate students who
perform services for, and under the control of, their universities are
easily covered - to make a policy decision that rightly belongs to Congress.
The reasons offered by the majority for its decision do not
stand up to scrutiny."

It is appalling that the NLRB took more than two years to issue this
obviously political decision and then did so in mid-July when many of us
are absent from campus. Now, thanks to Brown and Columbia's appeal to a
Bush-appointed NLRB, graduate student employees at private universities
join hundreds of thousands of other workers in this country whose rights are
being denied. But we cannot stop organizing for our rights. With or without
the NLRB, there's nothing stopping Columbia from recognizing GSEU and
bargaining a fair contract that addresses our needs as employees -- namely,
our wages and benefits as teaching and research assistants.

We urge everyone read the NLRB decision at
www.2110uaw.org/gseu/NLRB%20Brown%20Decision.pdf


American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Angry about NLRB reversal

WASHINGTON, July 15 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The 3,000 delegates to the American
Federation of Teachers convention reacted with anger and shouts of "No!"
when the union's executive vice president, Nat LaCour, told delegates that
the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had, minutes earlier, overturned a
November 2000 board decision giving private university teaching and research
assistants the right to join a union.

Graduate employees in public universities have organized unions since the
end of the 1960s. In private universities, however, their right to organize
was unclear until the 2000 NLRB decision involving New York University
guaranteed that right.

"Today's NLRB ruling is outrageous. This must change," LaCour told the
convention.

AFT Secretary-Treasurer Edward J. McElroy said, "Graduate employees are
obviously workers who deserve the same rights as their counterparts in
public universities. If a member of the NLRB can't recognize a worker when
they see one, they shouldn't be on a national labor board."

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi D-CA, speaking at the AFT
convention, said graduate employees "should have the same rights as all
workers. They are not second-class citizens. This is a shameful disregard
for the rights of these employees."

The AFT has represented graduate employees in the public sector for more
than three decades. The union represents teaching and research assistants at
14 major public universities, including the University of Wisconsin, the
University of Michigan, the University of Florida and the City University of
New York.

In public universities, unlike private institutions, graduate employees who
teach or conduct research fall under state labor laws and not the National
Labor Relations Act. State labor boards or state supreme courts in 13 states
have ruled previously that graduate employees are workers and have the right
to form unions.

In the private sector, the AFT recently organized teaching and research
assistants at the University of Pennsylvania, a private Ivy League
institution. The university has refused repeatedly to recognize the election
held there in 2003 until the NLRB reviewed its earlier decision giving
private university graduate employees the same rights as graduate employees
in public institutions.

The American Federation of Teachers represents 1.3 million members,
including 150,000 college and university faculty, more than any other union.
AFT membership also includes 12,000 graduate employees.

The AFT is holding its biennial convention at the Washington Convention
Center in Washington, D.C. through Sat., July 17.

---

The AFT represents 1.3 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers;
paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education
faculty and professional staff; nurses and healthcare workers; and federal,
state and local government employees.



UAW slams Labor Board decision on academic employees

A National Labor Relations Board ruling which reverses precedent and states
that teaching assistants and other academic student employees at Brown
University are not entitled to the protections of federal labor law is
"simply wrong," according to Sheyda Jahanbani, a campaign activist in the
Graduate Employees Organization (GEO).

"We're more determined than ever to organize, to improve teaching and
learning conditions on campus." said Jahanbani, a PhD candidate at Brown who
has worked as a teaching assistant in the University's history department.
"We are teaching classes, grading papers, advising students, and performing
work which is critical to the educational mission of this institution - and
we're entitled to the same rights as any other group of workers."

The GEO at Brown is an affiliate of the United Auto Workers, which also
represents academic student employees (ASEs) at New York University, the
University of California, the University of Massachusetts, and other
campuses.

Decided on 3-2 party-line vote, this week's Labor Board ruling reversed a
previous unanimous and bi-partisan ruling which made it easier for teaching
assistants and research assistants to get their administrations to the
bargaining table.

The Labor Board ruling will impact union organizing campaigns currently
underway at Columbia University, Tufts University, the University of
Pennsylvania, and Yale University.

"The right to join together to bargain for a better standard of living is a
basic human right," said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger. "The Labor Board
should be protecting and expanding the rights of workers, not restricting
them."

"Unfortunately, this is what we've come to expect from President Bush's
appointees to the Labor Board," said Gettelfinger. "Their recent decisions
have all been aimed at making it more difficult for workers to join unions."

"University administrators are mistaken if they think this decision will
intimidate the many thousands of academic workers who have decided to form
unions," said Elizabeth Bunn, secretary-treasurer of the United Auto
Workers, and director of the union's Technical, Office and Professional
(TOP) Department.

"The majority of these teachers and researchers at Brown, and many other
campuses, have organized themselves to improve their wages, working
conditions and benefits," said Bunn. "No ruling from the NLRB changes that."

"The movement for workers' justice on campus won't be deterred by this
partisan, anti-democratic decision," said Phil Wheeler, director of Region
9A of the UAW, which includes Rhode Island and other New England states.

"Tens of thousands of academic workers have joined our union," said Bunn.
"Our experience shows that workplace democracy on campus not only improves
working conditions for employees- it also improves the quality of education
available to students."

Bush's Labor Board Strips Graduate Employees of Right to Form Unions

In another attack on workers' rights, the Republican majority on the
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on July 13 stripped graduate employees
at private universities of their freedom to form unions and have a voice on
the job.

The Bush NLRB-the federal agency that oversees union elections and guides
the way labor laws are applied-sided with administrators at Brown University
in Providence, R.I., who fought efforts by graduate employees to form a
union with the UAW. In a 3-2 party-line decision, the NLRB said graduate
employees are students, not workers, and therefore don't have the right to
form unions. The ruling overturns a 2000 decision giving graduate employees
at New York University the right to a union voice on the job.

Dissenters on the board and union leaders say the new ruling does not
acknowledge the work graduate employees do teaching undergraduates, grading
tests and assisting professors-often for low wages and nearly nonexistent
benefits. "The Bush board overturned precedent and ignored overwhelming
evidence of the transformation of colleges and universities into large-scale
employers of low-wage academic workers," said AFL-CIO President John
Sweeney.

Last month, the NLRB said it would review the legality of rules regarding
majority verification procedures to form unions. Often called card-check
recognition, the process enables workers to more fairly and quickly indicate
whether they want a union. It's an alternative to the lengthy NLRB election
process, which actually encourages employers to block workers' free choice.

With the NLRB's latest decision, graduate employees at private universities
join the 32 million other workers in the United States who have no legal
right to form unions under federal or state laws, such as independent
contractors and more than 300,000 agricultural workers, according to a
September 2002 analysis by the federal General Accounting Office. The
international watchdog group Human Rights Watch, in a 2000 report on U.S.
labor rights, found "freedom of association is a right under severe, often
buckling pressure when workers in the United States try to exercise it,"
partly because so many workers don't have the legal right to form unions.

"However, no flawed labor board decision," said Sweeney, "can erase the fact
that the freedom to form unions is a fundamental human right."