- Graduate student unionization
Graduate student employee unionization refers to
labor unionsthat represent students who are employed by their collegeor universityto teach classes, conduct research and perform clerical duties. As of 2007 there are 28 graduate student employee local unions in the United States. and 21 local unions in Canada. [ [http://cgeu.org/contacts.php Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions Contact List] ] Labor lawsin the United States and Canada permit collective bargainingfor only limited classes of student-employees. Although some undergraduatestudents work in these job classifications, most are enrolled in graduate education programs. Many university administrators have vigorously opposed the unionization of graduate student employees on their campuses through legal challenges. Opposition by elite universities in the U.S. led to the loss of collective bargaining rights for graduate student employees in the private sector.
Collective Bargaining Rights of Graduate Student Employees in the US
Graduate student employees at public colleges and universities in the United States are covered by state collective bargaining laws, where these laws exist. The various state laws differ on which subgroups of graduate employees may bargain collectively, and a few state laws explicitly exclude them from bargaining. Some states have extended collective bargaining rights to graduate employees in response to unionization campaigns. They are excluded from Federal bargaining rights under the Taft-Harley Act's exclusion of state and local government employees.
Graduate student employees at private colleges and universities in the US are covered by the
National Labor Relations Act. The rulings of the National Labor Relations Board(NLRB) have shifted in recent years. After years of rejecting graduate employee unionization, the NLRB ruled in 2000 that graduate employees at private universities were covered under the national labor law. In 2004, with newly-appointed members, the Board reversed this decision, revoking the collective bargaining rights of graduate employees.
At the heart of the debate over graduate student employee unionization in the United States is the question of whether academic student employees are employees or students. The employer position, and that of the current NLRB, is that the work graduate employees do is so intertwined with their professional education that collective bargaining will harm the educational process. Supporters of unionization argue that graduate employees' work is primarily an economic relationship. They point especially to universities' use of Teaching Assistants as part of a wider trend away from full-time, tenured faculty.
For tax purposes, the
Internal Revenue Serviceconsiders the compensation of graduate student employees to be wages. When graduate students receive payment for teaching, it is not taxed on a 1042-S form (for scholarships), but on a W-2 (which is the form for employment income). The income from teaching is taxed differently from scholarships, and treated like employment income.
History of Graduate-student Unions in the U.S.
Teaching assistants at
Rutgers Universityand the City University of New York(CUNY) were the first to be included under a collective bargaining agreement. Rutgers and CUNY included graduate assistants with the faculty unionization contract. [ [http://cgeu.org/faq.php CGEU FAQ] . Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions. Retrieved on December 15, 2007. ]
University of Wisconsin's Teaching Assistant Association at Madison was the first to be recognized as an independent employee bargaining unit in 1969 and was granted a contract in 1970. [ [http://www.taa-madison.org/history.html The First Thirty-Five Years...And Beyond] , Teaching Assistants' Association: A History. Retrieved on December 15, 2007] At the same time, graduate assistants at the University of Michiganorganized a union, which later won a contract in 1975. [ [http://www.umgeo.org/?page_id=3 About GEO!] Graduate Employees' Organization. Retrieved on December 15, 2007.]
The next to unionize was the
University of Oregon[ [http://gtff.net/history.php University of Oregon GTFF History] , Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation. Retrieved on December 15, 2007] and three Floridauniversities: University of Florida, Florida A&M, and the University of South Florida. [Barba, W. C. (1994). "The Unionization Movement: An Analysis of Graduate Student Employee Union Contracts." Business Officer, 27(5), 35-43.] [Permission to unionize was finally approved by the Florida Supreme Court: "United Faculty of Florida, Local 1847 v. Board of Regents, State University System," Fla. App., 417 So. 2d 1055, 1982.] Florida was the first state to unionize where the union membership density in the state was below 15 percent. [Schenk, T. (2007). The effects of graduate-student unionization. (Master's Thesis, Iowa State University, 2007). Unpublished.] [See Hirch, Barry T., David A. Macpherson, and Wayne G. Vroman (2006) " [http://www.trinity.edu/bhirsch/MonthlyLaborReviewArticle.htm State Union Membership Density, 1964-2006] ." Retrieved on December 15, 2007.]
Unionization at private universities, meanwhile, are governed under the
National Labor Relations Actand the National Labor Relations Board(NLRB). Several ruling were issued by the NLRB during the 1970s which prohibited graduate students from unionizing. The board ruled that graduate assistants were not employees since their relationship is primarily for learning purposes. [" [http://tschenk.public.iastate.edu/sources/nlrb-adelphi.html Adelphi University] " 195 NLRB 638, 1972.]
Between 1981 and 1991, no university recognized a graduate union--the quietest period of unionization. Nevertheless, a number of union movements formed during this period and were later recognized. Teaching assistants at the
University of Buffalobegun a union campaign in 1975, but withdrew their petition to the State of New York Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). Other campuses from the State of New York University System, such as Albany, Binghamton, and Stony Brook, revived the union petition in 1984. [Barba, W. C. (1994). The Unionization Movement: An Analysis of Graduate Student Employee Union Contracts. "Business Officer," 27(5), 35-43.] Similarly, teaching assistants at the University of California at Berkeleystarted a union campaign in 1984. Eventually in 1988, readers and tutors were given collective bargaining rights at Berkeley, but did not include graduate assistants. Full collective bargaining status to all teaching assistants was not given until 1999.fact|date=December 2007
In 1991, the
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukeewas the first university to recognize a graduate-student union in a decade.fact|date=December 2007 Shortly thereafter, the University of Albany, Buffalo, Binghamton, and Stony Brook won recognition when the State of New York PERB ruled teaching assistants were employees and were granted collective bargaining rights. [Barba, W. C. (1994). The Graduate Student Employee Union in SUNY: A History. "Journal of Higher Education Management," 10(1), 39-48.]
Several other universities also won recognition in the 1990s. In 1995, the
University of Kansassigned their first union contract.fact|date=December 2007 Teaching and research assistants at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and the University of Iowaapproved a union contract in 1996. [Breitzer, S. R. (2003). More than Academic: Labor Consciousness and the Rise of UE Local 896-COGS. In D. M. Herman & J. M. Schmid (Eds.), "Cogs in the Classroom Factory: The Changing Identity of Academic Labor." Westport, CT: Praeger (pp. 71-90).] Wayne State Universityalso negotiated a contract with teaching assistants in 1999.fact|date=December 2007
Several notable unionization efforts arose at private universities. Prior rulings by the NLRB did not permit graduate students to unionize at private universities, but did not prohibit universities from recognizing the unions. Teaching assistant unions formed at
Yaleand New York University. To gain bargaining status, the unions went on several strikes. In 1996, for instance, teaching assistants at Yale refused to calculate and submit fall semester grades. [Goldin, D. (1995). [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=980CE3D71639F930A25751C1A963958260 Yale Teaching Assistants Vote for a Grade Strike.] "New York Times." Retrieved on September 25, 2007.] The administration still refused to recognize the union and the strike eventually ended. A suit was filed by the NLRB on behalf of the striking Yale students claiming Yale's administration violated unfair-labor-practice law; however, a judge later dismissed the suit. [Leatherman, C. (1997). [http://chronicle.com/che-data/articles.dir/art-44.dir/issue-02.dir/02a01901.htm Judge Explains Ruling in Yale Union Dispute.] "The Chronicle of Higher Education." Retrieved on September 25, 2007]
Besides SUNY, the
University of Californiasystem was the second university system to unionize. In 1999, the California PERB ruled teaching assistants were allowed to collectively bargain with the University of California. Union elections were held at the University of California's Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Riverside, and Irvine campuses--all of them approving a teaching assistant union. [Sullivan, R. (2003). Pyrrhic Victory at U.C. Santa Barbara: The Struggle for Labor's New Identity. In D. M. Herman & J. M. Schmid (Eds.), "Cogs in the Classroom Factory: The Changing Identity of Academic Labor." Westport, CT: Praeger.] In 2000, union negotiations for all of the campuses were combined into UAW Local 2865, who bargains on behalf of all the campuses. Teaching assistants at the University of California, Mercedalso joined the union when the campus opened in 2006. [ [http://www.uaw2865.org/rights/files/UAW_UC_07_09.pdf UAW Local 2865 2007-2009 Contract] . Retrieved on December 15, 2007.]
Also in 2000, the National Labor Relations Board reversed their previous rulings on unionization at private universities and permitted graduate assistants at New York University (NYU) to unionize [" [http://www.nlrb.gov/research/decisions/board_decisions/template_html.aspx?file=http://www.nlrb.gov/shared_files/Board%20Decisions/332/332-111.htm&size=254New York University] ." 332 NLRB 111, 2000] . Later that year, graduate assistants at NYU signed their first and only contract. [Smallwood, S. (2002). [http://chronicle.com/daily/2002/01/2002013003n.htm NYU Agrees to Contract With TA's, Setting Minimum Stipend and Health Benefits] . "The Chronicle of Higher Education." Retrieved on
August 29, 2007] In 2004, the NLRB again reversed itself and prohibited Brown Universityand other private universities from unionizing. [" [http://www.nlrb.gov/research/decisions/board_decisions/template_html.aspx?file=http://www.nlrb.gov/shared_files/Board%20Decisions/342/34242.htm&size=170 Brown University] " 342 NLRB 42, 2004] Since the ruling, NYU has refused to renew its contract with graduate assistants. [Smallwood, S. (2005). [http://chronicle.com/weekly/v51/i18/18a01103.htm Labor: Unions Cope With a Crucial Loss.] "The Chronicle of Higher Education," 51(18), p. A11. Retrieved on July 10, 2007]
Since 2000, twenty campuses have unionized [Schenk, T. (2007). The effects of graduate-student unionization. (Master's Thesis, Iowa State University, 2007). Unpublished.] . In 2001, the
University of Massachusetts, Boston signed their first contract with teaching and research assistantsfact|date=December 2007 while Oregon State Universitywon a contract [ [http://www.peak.org/~cge/about.html CGE History] . Coalition of Graduate Employees. Retrieved on December 15, 2007] --the second to receive a contract in Oregon. In 2002, Michigan State Universityand Temple Universityunionized. [ [http://www.tugsa.org/history.html TUGSA History] Temple University Graduate Students' Association. Retrieved on December 15, 2007] Despite a state law explicitly denying graduate assistants from unionizing, [ [http://cgeu.org/faq.php CGEU FAQ] . Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions. Retrieved on December 15, 2007. ] the Washington PERB ruled graduate assistants at the University of Washingtoncould unionize. ["University of Washington," Decision 8315 (PECB 2003).] The University of Rhode Islandalso unionized that year. [ [http://www.uri.edu/union/gau/about.php About Graduate Assistants United] . Graduate Assistants United. Retrieved on December 15, 2007.]
A ruling by the Illinois Court of Appeals [ [http://www.shout.net/~geo/mt-archive/000223.html GEO Wins in Court of Appeals] . Graduate Employees' Organization. Retrieved on
December 15, 2007.] permitted the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign[ [http://www.shout.net/~geo/mt-archive/000231.html Text Of The Agreement Reached Between The GEO And The University] . Graduate Employees' Organization. Retrieved on December 15, 2007.] (2002), University of Illinois at Chicago [ [http://www.uic-geo.net/qf.pdf (PDF) Quick Facts About Graduate Employee Unions] . Graduate Employee Organization. Retrieved on December 15, 2007.] (2004), and University of Illinois at Springfield [ [http://www.uisage.org/about.html About AGE] . Association of Graduate Employees. Retrieved on December 15, 2007] (2006) and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale[ [http://coalitionofgraduateemployeeunions.blogspot.com/2006/09/decisive-vote-creates-siuc-graduate.html Decisive vote creates SIUC graduate employee union.] The CGEU Weblog, September 19, 2006. Retrieved on December 15, 2007] (2006) to unionize. The large California State Universitysystem, [ [http://www.uaw4123.org/contracts/uawlocal4123contract.pdf Collective Bargaining Agreement the Board of Trustees of The California State University and the United Auto Workers] . UAW Local 4123. Retrieved on December 15, 2007] the third university system, unionized in 2006. Also in 2006, Western Michigan University teaching assistants unionized--the fourth Michigan university to do so. [ [http://coalitionofgraduateemployeeunions.blogspot.com/2006/04/tau-western-mich-votes-yes.html TAU @ Western Mich. Votes Yes] . The CGEU Weblog, April 28, 2006. Retrieved on December 15, 2007.] Currently, Central Michigan University graduate assistants are also in the process of developing a union. [ [http://www.cmugsu.com Central Michigan University Graduate Student Union] CMU GSU. Retrieved on February 19, 2008.]
Recently, the NLRB has ruled research assistants at private, but university-affiliated, research centers for SUNY and CUNY are permitted to unionize. [" [http://www.nlrb.gov/shared_files/Board%20Decisions/350/v35018.htm Research Foundation of the State University of New York] ." 350 NLRB, 2007.] [" [http://www.nlrb.gov/shared_files/Board%20Decisions/350/v35019.htm Research Foundation of the City University of New York] ." 350 NLRB, 2007]
Major events timeline
# The oldest graduate assistants' union still in existence is the Teaching Assistant's Association at the University of Wisconsin. They settled their first contract in 1970 after a 4 week strike. [ [http://www.taa-madison.org/history.html "The First Thirty Five Years and Beyond" (organizational history on union's website] ]
# Also in 1970, graduate student instructors at the
University of Michigan, Ann Arborformed the Graduate Employees' Organization. The union won its first contract in 1975. [ [http://www.umgeo.org/?page_id=3 "About GEO!" (organizational history on union's website] ]
# In 1980 the University of Wisconsin administration unilaterally withdrew from collective bargaining with the TAA. There was no bargaining until a new state law granted bargaining rights and the union won a representation election in 1987.
# In 1989, academic student employees at
University of California, Berkeley, struck for recognition. Soon after, UC Berkeley voluntarily recognized AGSE/UAW as the Union for Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Readers, Tutors and Acting Instructors.
# In 1992, after a negative court decision, UC Berkeley withdrew recognition of AGSE/UAW, prompting academic student employees at UC Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz to strike for over a month in Fall 1992.
# In 1993, 800 Readers, Tutors and Acting Instructors at UC Berkeley win recognition of AGSE/UAW.
# In 1993, the
State University of New York(SUNY) Graduate Student Employee Union negotiated its first contract with the State of New York.
# In 1995,
Yale University's Graduate Employees and Students Organization(GESO) withheld student grades in order to force recognition of their union.
# In 1997, The
National Labor Relations Boardfiled charges against Yale for illegal retaliation against graduate students attempting to unionize. However, the university still does not recognize GESO today.
# In December 1998, UAW-represented academic student employees at 8 campuses of the University of California struck for recognition on the eve of final exams, prompting leaders of the State Legislature to call for a cooling-off period and negotiations to resolve the issue of recognition. That same month, the California Public Employment Relations Board rules that Teaching Assistants, Readers, and Tutors have collective bargaining rights.
# In 1999, the UAW won representation elections for 9,000 academic student employees in the University of California system.
# In April, 2000, graduate students who teach, grade papers and conduct research at
New York University(NYU) were granted the legal right to form a union by the NLRB. During litigation over graduate students' efforts to organize at NYU, the NLRB Regional Director ruled that graduate students are employees. Proponents were hopeful that this ruling would open the door for other institutions.
# NYU appealed that ruling to the NLRB in Washington. On October 31, 2000, the NLRB affirmed the Regional Director's finding.
# In the year 2000, there are unionization recognition battles in Illinois, Michigan, Connecticut and other states.
# In December 2001, an NLRB vote was held at Brown University on whether to unionize graduate students in affiliation with the United Auto Workers. Brown appealed the ruling of the NLRB allowing the election, so the votes were never counted. However, graduate students organized to oppose unionzation claim that the UAW was defeated.
# On October 24, 2002, Cornell graduate students rejected a unionization attempt by the United Autoworkers by a margin of 2 to 1.
# In December 2002, after nearly a decade-long effort, graduate employees at the
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, voted overwhelmingly for the Graduate Employees' Organization as their union. [ [http://www.shout.net/~geo/mt-archive/000078.html "GEO History" (organizational history on union's website] ]
# At Yale in April, 2003, GESO organized a non-binding election to be certified by the League of Women Voters. GESO lost the vote and subsequently claimed that grad students were intimidated to vote no by the administration. Anti-unionization students challenged these claims as being baseless, as the election was a secret ballot, and pointed to evidence that more union members voted in the election than the number of yes votes. There were also 27 write in ballots which expressed support for unionization, but not for GESO.
# In the fall of 2004, the NLRB announced a [http://www.nlrb.gov/nlrb/shared_files/decisions/342/342-42.pdf complete reversal] of its 2000 decision in the case of NYU in a 3-2 decision siding with Brown in its 2001 appeal. The Republican controlled board stated in their decision that "there is a significant risk, even a strong likelihood, that the collective-bargaining process will be detrimental to the educational process."
Graduate Employees and Students Organization, Yale University
National Labor Relations Board
Graduate Employees Together - University of Pennsylvania
At What Cost?, Cornell
* [http://cgeu.org Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions]
* [http://www.yaleunions.org/geso/ Graduate Employees and Students Organization]
* [http://www.2110uaw.org/gsoc/ GSOC at NYU]
* [http://www.cmugsu.com/ GSU at CMU]
* [http://www.yale.edu/opa/gradschool/ Yale University's Graduate Student Unionization Page]
* [http://www.ericdigests.org/2001-3/graduate.htm ERIC Digest] of Graduate Student Unionization in Higher Education.
* [http://www.yale.edu/gaso/ Graduates Against Student Organization]
* [http://atwhatcost.blog-city.com/ At What Cost, Yale]
* [http://atwhatcost.org/ At What Cost, Cornell]
* [http://www.geocities.com/brown_atwhatcost/ At What Cost, Brown]
* [http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i36/36a01201.htm/ Article on anti-unionization grad students]
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