Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Can't Keep a Good Quasi-Union Down

The brave graduate proletariats at Tufts aren't going quietly into the sunset, though I have it on good authority that there's "no chance" that the Tufts administration will recognize or negotiate with ASET, especially not now that the NLRB is saying they don't have to. Perhaps some good can come of this, and ASET members will return to graduate government, and try more non-coercive forms of persuasion.

But perhaps not. Here's what they wrote. Note that it's barely rewritten from Columbia's GSEU's statement on the ruling, with just the final paragraph changed. Same set of talking points from the UAW?

Another observation: why is it always "partisanship" when it says one is wrong, but it's "political courage" when it's narrowly decided in one's favor? As if it makes you right or wrong either way...

Subject: NLRB rules Grad Students not Employees
From: Grad Student
Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2004 22:24:36 -0700 (PDT)
To: asetufts@yahoo.com

On July 15, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that graduate student employees at Brown University are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act. The Board ruled that graduate students are not employees and are not entitled to join a union and exercise collective bargaining rights.

This recent decision, breaking 3-2 along party lines, overrules the unanimous bi-partisan 2000 NYU decision granting graduate student employees in the private sector collective bargaining protections. The Republican appointees of the Board found that graduate students working as Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Proctors are not employees because their relationship to the university is primarily educational rather than economic. 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 Instead, it pointed to outdated decisions from the 1970s, ignoring the realities of academia today.

In a forceful dissent, the remaining two Board members challenge the assertion that the 25 year old precedents invoked by the majority, despite being out of touch with the current realities of the academy, are appropriate guideposts to this new decision. Pointing to it’s radical departure in policy, the dissenting opinion notes that “until today, the Board has never held that graduate teaching assistants are not employees under the Act and therefore should not be allowed to form bargaining units of their own.” The dissenting opinion goes on to argue that “the majority’s approach, minimizing the economic relationship between graduate assistants and their universities, is unsound. It rests on fundamental misunderstandings of contemporary higher education, which reflects our colleagues’ unwillingness to take a close look at the academic world.”

It’s deplorable that the Labor Board, after a 2 year delay in coming to a decision, should issue such a clearly political decision in the middle of summer, when most graduate employees affected are away from campus. Now, thanks to Tuft’s appeal, we join hundreds of thousands of other workers in this country whose rights are being whittled away and denied by the Bush appointed Labor Board. Despite this recent ruling, we must continue to fight for our rights to democratically join a union. As the dissenting opinion observes, “the developments that brought graduate students to the Board will not go away, but they will have to be addressed elsewhere.” With or without the NLRB, there’s nothing to stop Tufts from bargaining over those issues, including wages, benefits, and workload, that are important to us as graduate student employees.

We urge you to read the decision at http://www.nlrb.gov/nlrb/shared_files/decisions/342/342-42.pdf

In the coming weeks, you will be hearing more about how we can move forward to reach our goal of collective bargaining for Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Graders at Tufts.

the union for graduate student employees at tufts

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