Yes they do. And the following is in support of that claim: “Often described as the ‘heart’ of the act, section 7 of the statute reflects the law’s basic purposes. It provides that ‘employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection’ “ (Kohler, 2004). In addition, the labor laws tend to favor employee and union relationships.
Labor laws do provide protection for union employees against wage inequality by defining standard minimum wage requirements and they address other workplace safety issues as well. These labor laws are authorized at the government level and thus allow any public employee to not only join a union, but create one (by organizing) should they so desire. And given the fact that the majority of the employees at West University are public employees, already in established unions, the organization process for the Resident Assistants (RAs).
To help facilitate that process, the Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) was affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union. Although the workforce at West College is a majority of union employees, the non-union employees are not required to join any union due to the fact that Arizona is a right-to-work state. But again, the labor laws to prevail and allow a group of employees to legally organization under State and Federal laws.
2 – Do you think teaching assistants should be considered employees?
If they are on a payroll as a W2 individual, and work a set amount of hours then I can’t any reason why they would not be considered employees. Similar to the Resident Assistants, I would imagine that the Teaching Assistants are also students who attend the college as well. Based upon the information provided, the Teaching Assistants are also unionized employees.
Education aside, the skill level of the Teaching Assistant should not be a factor when it comes to joining a union, there should be some educational requirements for the job of a Teaching Assistant however. Although a Teaching Assistant does not have teaching credentials, hence they’re not on the same pay grade, but there is a fair amount of experience that a Teaching Assistant is expected to have to perform their job effectively. This does not mean that a Teaching Assistant could not handle the job of teaching a class if they had to, they just do not have the official credentials and could present to the University should they be put into a teaching position.
For further clarification, there is a difference that should be noted between an assistant and an intern. Per the following example: “Intern: a person who works as an apprentice or trainee in an occupation or profession to gain practical experience, and sometimes also to satisfy legal or other requirements for being licensed or accepted professionally.” Whereas “Assistant: serving in an immediately subordinate position; of secondary rank…generally not in training for another role.” (Dictionary.com)
3 – Do you think management’s reaction to employee interest in unionization differs if the employer already has a high union density among other employee groups?
If a majority of the employees are already organized in some type of a union setup, then unfortunately, the only reaction that Management can have is to agree to other groups wanting to organization. That is unless Management can come up with some reasons why organization should not take place.
This type of a balance has its pros and cons. If this is a type of an environment where a majority of union employees makes more sense, then this type of an arrangement can be productive if even more employees wanted to organize. And it might be best if management did agree to that because there is always the fairness issue that can come up of a group of non-union employees receives the same treatment that the union employees receives. In this case, that is the argument of the Resident Assistants. But at the same time, there are situations where it just makes no sense for a particular group of employees to organize.
Now it is a great benefit for the employees to belong to a union but on the flip side of that argument, transitioning from a non-union environment to a union environment can be a lengthy and expensive process. The costs of running a unionized business can be quite. And the case of a University, those costs are not going absorbed as a lost by the school, but instead will be passed down to the consumer, in the case, the student. Thus the tuition costs will keep increasing, and the university runs the risk of losing business to the competition. It doesn’t matter if it is a university, is it still a business.
4 – What are the key factors that led some RAs to have interest in union representation? Do you think that RAs have legitimate job-related concerns, or are the RA complaints overstated?
The working conditions of the Resident Assistants were starting to become a concern for the employees. The Resident Assistants have been assigned the task of disciplining their fellow students and were subjected to any pushback. Thus there is a potential conflict of interest since the Resident Assistants are overseeing the immediate area where they are also housed in.
Although the Resident Assistants are paid a wage for their services, they are in fact full-time students. Per the labor laws, the University is not required to allow a group of full-time students to organize but it is not against the law Resident Assistants to organize.
Now, the Resident assistants, do sign an agreement with the University detailing their job description and what is expected of them. This is certainly a valuable service that is being provided to the University, but at the same it does not warrant an organization movement in my opinion. Especially due to the natural turnover rate of the students (students graduating, etc.), a Resident Assistant is certainly not a long-term position and thus does not really justify signing a union / employee contract for any significant length of time.
In summary, the Resident Assistants do have generally good talking points for organization. However, their job description does not warrant the added expense that the University will take on when that group is organized. Should the Residents Assistants job descriptions increase, then yes, organization would be a good idea at the University. But key to remember here is that the Resident Assistants are full-time students with less than part-time jobs that they want to unionize.
5 – Do the RAs opposed to unionization have legitimate concerns? How could unionization change the culture of Residence Life?
Those concerns are quite legitimate, and in my opinion, more selfless and grounded than the rest of the Resident Assistants. As mentioned above, these are full-time students with a part-time that they are not being forced to do. They chose to apply for the position, and they signed an agreement of the behavior and expectations (minimum GPA, etc.)
The Resident Assistant position should be used as an opportunity to gain some good experience such as what an intern would get but also with a financial incentive. By organizing, the Resident Assistants may miss out on the real experience of interaction with the culture of the campus residential environment. In other words, the resident Assistant would be focusing more on being an employee vs. being a student and a Resident Assistant. Thus, the Resident assistant could possibly be viewed as more of a security guard then someone who is on the same level as the other students.
I’m sure there was a fair amount of thought that went into designing the position of the Student Assistant, and it appears that they divided in half. One half, being on the same page with the University in wanting to keep the integrity of the position; and the other half wanting to break away from University tradition and form a separate. Again, not a bad idea to organize if the students were going to be in these positions for a long time, but they’re not. It’s a very transient position.
6 – How does the law regarding union recognition for public employees in this state compare with the NLRA rules regarding union recognition for private-sector employees?
There are some similarities. However, Section 7 of the law states the following: to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection,” as well as the right to refrain from engaging in any of those activities. (Kohler, 2004)
Let’s look at the three key principles of the law as noted by Kohler:
“There are three key principals on which the NLRA rests: 1) the exclusivity principle; 2) the notion of free collective bargaining; and 3) the structural autonomy of the bargaining representative of the employees (in other words, the independence of the employees’ labor union from the employer).” (Kohler, 2004) Breaking this down further, Kohler goes on to explain:
Exclusivity Principle. The exclusivity principle is a basic feature of American-style collective bargaining. According to the exclusivity principle, the union representative selected by a majority of employees in a workplace becomes the exclusive (sole) representative of all those employees. (Kohler, 2004)
Free Collective Bargaining. Free collective bargaining is the second basic principle of the NLRA. The act leaves the decision whether to organize entirely to employees.(Kohler, 2004)
Structural Autonomy. The structural autonomy of the employees’ bargaining representative is the third key principle of the collective bargaining system adopted by the NLRA. This principle anchors the system of free collective bargaining.(Kohler, 2004)
In addition, Section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) states the following: “to dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or to contribute financial or other support to it.” (Kohler, 2004)
7 – Why did the LRC determine that RAs and CDAs were employees? Do you agree with the LRC decision? Why? Why not?
In summary, I do not agree with the decision handed down by the Labor Relations Commission. Resident Assistants are really only student assistants that earn a small wage through the school year and depending upon the school schedule will not be working in the summertime. The decision to recognized students as employees is reckless and can have consequences down the road. This is a slippery slope. I don’t know the complete reasoning behind the decision of the Labor Relations Commission but if I had to guess I would imagine that there is a bit of a bias since the Labor Relations Commissions tend to lean pro-union.
Another concern that the University should be aware of is that now that they Resident Assistants are organized, there is a possibility that these positions can be abused. Prior to organization, the Resident Assistant applicant would sign a Memo of Understanding (MOU) outlining the expectations that they were expected to meet. Being that they are organized now, the Memo of Understanding is most likely going to be tossed out the window and a new set of demands may start coming in over the years. Not to mentioned the future additional labor expenses that the University is going to incur.
Kohler, Thomas C.. “National Labor Relations Act (1935).” Major Acts of Congress. 2004. Retrieved October 18, 2012 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3407400221.html