NEW YORK, NY — Unions seeking representation for more than 3,000 research and teaching assistants (RAs and TAs) filed certification petitions with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) today. Graduate Workers of Columbia (GWC-UAW), the union for 2,800 Columbia University RAs and TAs, and Student Employees of New School (SENS-UAW), the union for over 350 RAs and TAs at the New School, filed petitions at the Manhattan NLRB office to become part of the UAW.
GWC-UAW and SENS-UAW both announced recently that a majority of RAs and TAs at their respective universities had signed cards choosing union representation and asked university leaders for a fair and expedient process for recognition of their unions. As neither university has agreed to do so, both groups petitioned the NLRB today.
“We’re disappointed that Columbia has yet to respond to our request. We’re still open to meeting with the university administration to agree on a fair and expedient process to verify our majority support and begin bargaining as soon as possible,” said Lyudmila Kovalchuke, a researcher in Biological Sciences at Columbia’s Medical Center. “If the administration continues to neglect our request, we are confident that the NLRB will rule in our favor.”
If successful, the petitions filed today would overturn a 2004 decision regarding the case of Brown University, rendered by George W. Bush appointees to the NLRB. In that case, the NLRB determined that graduate employees at private universities did not have the right to collective bargaining, reversing a 2000 precedential decision granting bargaining rights to graduate employees at New York University. After agreeing to a first contract that made dramatic improvements to pay and benefits, the NYU administration used the Brown decision to refuse to bargain over a second contract in 2005. In November 2013, after an eight-year struggle, graduate employees at NYU won back their union through a historic neutrality and election agreement with the administration, leading to a 98.4 percent vote in favor of unionization.
In 2002, Columbia RAs and TAs voted in an election directed by the regional NLRB, but due to the Brown decision, the ballots were never counted. A favorable decision on today’s petition would give Columbia and New School graduate workers the right to choose unionization.
“We are excited to join graduate employees organizing unions in more than 60 universities around the country,” said Eli Nadeau, a Politics student and RA at the New School. “Our schools work because we do, and we should have a say in the adjudication of our working conditions. Collective bargaining gives us a voice! We want the administration to hear us.”
“The 2004 Brown decision was wrong, and we call on the current NLRB to quickly address these petitions and reverse that decision,” said Julie Kushner, Director of UAW Region 9A, which includes New York City.
The UAW represents over 50,000 academic employees across the country, including more than 30,000 RAs and TAs at New York University, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts, University of Washington, University of California, and California State University. The UAW also represents postdoctoral researchers, part-time and adjunct faculty and support staff at numerous major universities across the US.
For more information, contact UAW Communications Director Sandra Davis at [email protected] or (313) 926-5291, or contact Ken Lang at (206) 390-4265.
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