Case Study 5.2 - "Are Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Proctors Employees Under the Nlrb?"

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Case study 5.2 - "Are Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, and Proctors Employees under the NLRB?"
Given the broad definition of “employee” found in the NLRA, one would have to conclude that the teaching assistants, research assistants, and proctors are all employees of Yellowstone University. At a public institution the NLRA would specifically not apply, but as a private institution Yellowstone is providing compensation to its graduate students for contributions made to the operation of the school at large. The additional tuition remissions given to the majority of graduate students is the only portion of this compensation that could reasonably be considered financial aid, and make it clear that the services provided by the graduate students are economically advantageous to the institution in and of themselves, regardless of the education that the graduate students receives via these services (i.e. teaching and research).

There are several reasons that a labor union would wish to organize and represent teaching assistants and research assistants, as well as the proctors and anyone else performing work for Yellowstone University. On an altruistic level, it could be that they simply wished to ensure fair employment practices and better conditions and compensation for the employees. On a more pragmatic level, the bargaining power of the labor union would be far greater of teaching assistants and research assistants were unionized. The recognized employees—specifically instructors and researchers—of Yellowstone University are presumably unionized, and the addition of teaching and research assistants to the union rolls would give labor near complete control over the basic functions (research and instruction) of the university. In addition to providing the union with a much stronger bargaining position in absolute terms, this would give the union greater flexibility in bargaining with more available concessions.

Fro that reason, teaching assistants, research assistants, and proctors might be wary of joining the same labor organization as the professors and other union employees at the school. There are also many benefits, however, not the least of which would be their collective bargaining power, and the ability to negotiate pay rates at all, in fact. Under the current conditions of stipends delivered under the guise of financial aid, these graduate students have absolutely no power to negotiate with the university at all. They are actually largely at Yellowstone’s mercy; their education as well as their stipend is dependent on their performance of whatever tasks are assigned to them by their immediate supervisors. In this situation, unfair employment demands could potentially be made that the graduate student would feel obligated to carry out rather than risk not only their current position bt alo their academic and professional future. Unionization would go a long way in alleviating many of these worries.

Under the NLRA, all of the graduate students mentioned in the case study (with the exception of the fellows working solely on their dissertations) would have the right to assemble, organize, and engage in collective bargaining with Yellowstone University concerning wages and other compensations for work performed. They would likewise be able to make demands in regards to working conditions and the types and amounts of work that they could be asked to perform. They would also, after a failure of collective bargaining between labor and management and a consensus as provided for by the union, be allowed to engage in a work stoppage.

As explained above, anyone engaged in productive work for Yellowstone University could be considered an employee under the National Labor Relations ct (NLRA). As teaching assistants, these graduate students are essential to the undergraduate education taking place in the university (which is undoubtedly a major source of profit for the private university). As researches,...
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