NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Push to Unionize Graduate Teaching Assistants

August 3, 1999

Graduate students at some of the nation's top universities contend that, in teaching part time to support their studies, they are employees and should have the right to unionize. Critics, including university administrators, argue that schools would be subject to legal harassment and intrusive regulations that would disrupt the educational system.

Union organizers are all for the idea.

  • The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union is in a fierce battle with Yale University as it attempts to organize teaching assistants there.
  • The United Auto Workers union is concentrating on organizing graduate students who teach at the University of California.

The typical Yale doctoral student receives:

  • Four years of paid tuition -- worth $21,760 a year.
  • An annual stipend of $10,200 to $16,750.
  • A dissertation fellowship of $9,500.
  • Also, they receive free health care; access to university libraries, athletic facilities and cultural centers; and free job placement assistance.

"If students were to be treated as employees -- and faculty members as their supervisors -- under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act," says Yale Provost Alison Richard, "a universe of pervasive and intrusive external regulation and regulatory processes would apply, burdening and restricting the essentially dynamic and flexible relationships of an educational system that has long been in place."

Source: Macroscope, "Student Union," Investor's Business Daily, August 3, 1999.


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