Nov 132019
 
 November 13, 2019

In response to the National Labor Relations Board’s attempt to restrict the rights of student employees to form unions, we are encouraging members to submit comments registering that student employees are, in fact, employees. The proposed rule would establish that “students who perform any services for compensation, including, but not limited to, teaching or research, at a private college or university in connection with their students are not ‘employees’ within the meaning of Section 2(3) of the National Labors Relations Act.” 

How to Write Effective Comments Against the Trump NLRB Rule

Please submit comments modeled on the options below by December 16, 2019. The goal is to reinforce that (a) Research and Teaching Assistants, Tutors, and Graders – regardless of whether they are graduate or undergraduate students – are employees whose work creates tremendous value for the university and (b) collective bargaining is the only way to equalize the power relationship between student employees and universities. Remember, comments must be unique to be counted!  Please also be sure to include that you are affiliated with University of Washington.

To join thousands of other student teachers and researchers demanding respect and fairness at work, submit your comment now. We encourage that you identify your institution so the NLRB can see comments coming from all over the country and not just private universities.  Your address is not required. Submit comments through our web-form at www.gradsfightback.org. You can paste your comment directly into the comment box or upload it as a PDF.

Template for TA

Dear Roxanne Rothschild,

As a graduate student and Teaching Assistant at the University of Washington, I oppose this rule aimed at erasing the labor done by student employees that are essential to the economic functioning of universities. Students are employees no matter what kind of university they are at, as they fulfill work requirements and support the functioning of departments and colleges as a whole. As a pre-doctoral instructor in English at my institution, I’m responsible for writing instruction (3 courses a year, roughly 70 students) that supports students through their entire college career, in addition to providing mentorship for students having difficulty navigating college life and providing letters of recommendation. Though the rule argues that “[s]tudents spend a limited amount of time performing these additional duties because their principal time commitment is focused on their coursework and studies,” I spend at least 20 hours per week carrying out my employment duties and my pay is contingent on successfully teaching these classes and performing this labor (13). This also shows the total inaccuracy of the rule’s claim that “students typically receive funding regardless of the time they spend researching or teaching” (13). If I don’t perform the work I don’t get paid, and the activities listed above are being performed more and more by students as we are often the only teachers who know our students on a personal basis. The courses I teach are often the smallest that students will take and so their demands on my time are more urgent than in their other classes as this class determines many students’ ability to get into their majors.

Collective bargaining is essential to supporting the work that TAs and RAs do, giving us a tool with which to ensure we can address our needs. Not just in progressing toward more equitable income but also in addressing the pervasive harassment in universities that relies precisely on employees having no recourse to bargaining. In closing, I oppose this rule fiercely for its attempt to negate the value of graduate student employees and the right to organize and bargain that employees have already been won. This will embolden universities to further devalue and erase the labor of their most overburdened employees, to the cost of everyone.

Sincerely,
Kaelie G
PhD Student, University of Washington
UAW 4121

Template for RA

As a graduate student and Research Assistant, I oppose this rule aimed at erasing the labor done by student employees that are essential to the economic functioning of universities. Student TAs and RAs are employees no matter what kind of university they are at, as they fulfill work requirements and support the functioning of departments and colleges as a whole. As an RA I am still expected to make progress on research, regardless of whether I am taking courses. For research projects with my advisor, I do the majority of the work, including recruiting and interviewing participants, and administrative tasks around organizing and cleaning up data; the quantity and quality of research at this institution would absolutely plummet without student employee labor.

Though the rule argues that “[s]tudents spend a limited amount of time performing these additional duties because their principal time commitment is focused on their coursework and studies,” the reality for my department is that we are guaranteed funding for 3 years, and subsequent funding is contingent on producing research. Graduate student employees’ publishing research is essential to advisors being able to successfully win grant money, which in turn funds additional research, as well as makes money for the university (as they take 50% of grant money for overhead costs).

This proposed ruling blatantly mischaracterizes the labor student employees perform, and if successfully passed would strip away the ability for private university student employees to unionize to fight for labor rights. I sincerely oppose this ruling, which would be a blow to graduate departments everywhere.

Sincerely,
Christine G.
PhD Student, University of Washington
UAW 4121

Template for Postdocs

As a Postdoctoral Scholar at the XXXX, I oppose this rule aimed at erasing the labor done by student employees that are essential to the economic functioning of universities. Student Tutors, Graders, Teaching Assistants and Research Assistants are employees no matter what kind of university they are at, as they fulfill work requirements and support the functioning of departments and colleges as a whole. RAs are expected to make progress on research, regardless of whether they are taking courses. In research projects in our labs, they take on an important part of the work, including recruiting and interviewing participants and administrative tasks around organizing and cleaning up data; the quantity and quality of research at this institution would absolutely plummet without student employee labor.

Though the rule argues that “[s]tudents spend a limited amount of time performing these additional duties because their principal time commitment is focused on their coursework and studies,” the reality for our departments is that grad students are guaranteed funding for a certain amount of time, but subsequent funding is contingent on producing research. Graduate student employees’ publishing research is essential to advisors being able to successfully obtain grant money, which in turn funds additional research, as well as makes money for the university (as they take 50% of grant money for overhead costs).

This proposed ruling blatantly mischaracterizes the labor student employees perform, and if successfully passed would strip away the ability for private university student employees to unionize to fight for labor rights. I sincerely oppose this ruling, which would be a blow to graduate departments everywhere.

Sincerely,
Leandro C
Postdoctoral Scholar, University of Washington
UAW 4121