Q: What is the status of our NLRB case?
On December 23, 2016, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) remanded our case back to the regional NLRB for “further appropriate action consistent with Columbia University.” Based on this action, we hope the regional NLRB will process our case efficiently so that we can have a unionization election sometime early in the spring semester
In a historic move leading up to this action, the NLRB recently overturned the 2004 Brown University decision and restored the right to collective bargaining for RAs and TAs at private universities in the Columbia University case. Though we filed our NLRB petition for SENS-UAW to be our union at the same time as the Columbia workers, the Board did not rule on our case. We expect them to take action any day.
The Columbia ruling is huge because it restores a right that was originally affirmed in 2000, in a case at New York University, after which RAs and TAs there voted to unionize and negotiated major improvements – including a 38 percent increase to minimum stipends and paid health insurance for the first time – in the first-ever union contract for RAs and TAs at a private university. George W. Bush appointees to the NLRB took away this right in a 2004 ruling regarding a similar petition at Brown University, saying that RAs and TAs were primarily students and that, therefore, private universities had no obligation to bargain with unions of RAs and TAs. As of August 23, 2016, the Brown decision is overturned.
Q: If the NLRB grants us bargaining rights, will The New School have to recognize the Union?
If the NLRB grants us bargaining rights, like at Columbia, the ruling itself will not require The New School to recognize and bargain with the Union. It would trigger a process where the NLRB would schedule an election in which RAs and TAs would vote on having SENS-UAW be our Union. If a majority votes “yes,” then the NLRB would certify SENS-UAW as our Union, and The New School would be legally obligated to bargain in good faith with our elected bargaining committee for a contract.
Q: If the NLRB holds an election, who can vote?
If the NLRB affirms our union rights, part of the decision would be determining the “bargaining unit,” the group of workers who are eligible to unionize. Those included in that defined unit would be eligible to vote. At The New School, based on majority support from all parts of campus, the Union has petitioned to represent all RAs and TAs.
Q: When would the vote take place?
Details such as time, place and who is eligible to vote are worked out between the union, the university, and the NLRB. If the decision comes soon, we would expect to have the election in the Fall semester.
Q: How does the vote work?
The election is administered by the NLRB. Typically, the vote would be held onsite at the university and all eligible voters would be notified in advance of the times and locations. The ballot would ask voters to indicate “yes” to representation by SENS-UAW or “no union.” The vote is by secret ballot.
Q: How many people have to vote yes for us to establish SENS-UAW as our Union
It takes a simple majority of those voting to establish SENS-UAW as our Union, but if we want to build momentum to win a strong contract, it will be important to have support from a majority of all eligible RAs and TAs.
Q: If SENS-UAW wins the election, what happens next?
After a successful election, we would do the following to prepare for and engage in the process of negotiating a contract with The New School: nominate and elect a bargaining committee from among RAs and TAs; based on existing and further surveys, the committee would develop initial bargaining goals; the committee would ask for RAs and TAs to vote on those goals; the committee would work to schedule dates with the University to start contract negotiations; when the committee has negotiated a tentative agreement with the University they feel they can recommend, RAs and TAs would vote whether to ratify it as the first contract; after the contract is ratified, the membership would elect representatives who help run the Union and help members with any problems they have in the workplace.
ORDER: National Labor Relations Board [December 23, 2016]
AMICUS BRIEF: American Council on Education, et al [December 16, 2015]
ORDER GRANTING REQUEST FOR REVIEW: National Labor Relation’s Board [October 21, 2015]
REGIONAL BOARD DIRECTOR’S DECISION: Supplemental Decision [July 30, 2015]
The National Labor Relation’s Board Regional Director has made a decision on our case to re-establish the legal right to collective bargaining for student workers at private universities. While our petition was dismissed, because of precedence set by the federal board in the 2004 Brown University decision, we remain optimistic that when we appeal this decision to the federal board they will find that we have the right to collective bargaining as student workers.
LEGAL BRIEFS: SENS-UAW | The New School
Legal briefs were filed by us and the University with the NLRB regional director as of June 1. Based on evidence presented in the recent hearings, we argue that the NLRB should overturn the 2004 Brown decision and re-establish the legal right to collective bargaining for student workers at private universities in the US.
Latest updates on our hearings at the National Labor Relations Board can be found here.