University of Chicago TAs, RAs, undergrad library workers file for union votes

CHICAGO—Graduate student teaching assistants and research assistants at one of the nation’s most-prestigious private universities, the University of Chicago, filed union election recognition cards with the National Labor Relations Board’s regional office in early May. The same day, an undergrad unit of UofC library workers filed cards with the NLRB, too.

The grad student vote marks yet another milestone in organizing drives by the Teachers – in this case, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors – at private colleges nationwide. The UofC’s 2,000-plus TAs and RAs are in Grad Students United, and have campaigned for a union for a decade. The 174 undergrads seek a vote to join Teamsters Local 743. The two elections are expected before the end of June.

“Grad employees are the backbone of the University of Chicago,” said Amanda Shubert, a fourth-year doctoral student in English, told GSU. “As graduate teaching and research assistants, we perform essential work and deserve a seat at the table where decisions are made that affect our lives, those of our students, and the broader community. Forming this union allows us to speak with a strong collective voice.”

Key issues for the undergrad library workers – who, if they win, would be among the first such union units in the U.S. – are low wages, erratic hours and university violations of federal Title IX, covering women’s rights, and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“Student workers do a large amount of the work that makes UChicago Library — and by extension, UChicago — function, and we need to have a legitimate say in the issues that affect us, affect our work environments, and affect our abilities to balance our jobs and education,” said fourth-year undergraduate Daphne Xi, a student worker at the Mansueto Library.

Source: PAI