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Improved employee benefits sought by graduate school workers

| May 25, 2018 | Union Representation |

In New York City, unions are a key part of allowing all workers who are members get the maximum in wages and benefits. This is especially true for students who are also working at their university to make ends meet. It is easy for people to find themselves in situations where they might believe they are being taken advantage of. Even when they try to band together and join a union to improve labor relations, there can still be issues with their employer. It is in these circumstances that workers should seek legal assistance for their endeavors.

Graduate students who are also teachers at the New School in Manhattan are not considered employees at the school and do not get benefits or what they perceive is a living wage. 850 members of the union that represents students who work there – SENS-UAW – have gone on strike. The union has support from more than 300 of the school’s faculty as they seek to shut the school down until their concerns are addressed. The graduate students who also work at the school are not treated as employees. This despite court rulings saying they should be treated as such.

For its part, the school says that it is hoping to negotiate an agreement. The workers sought to unionize and wanted recognition by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) just over three years ago. Prior to that, there was a policy that private schools had the right to deny recognition to this type of unionization. That was reversed for Columbia University in 2016, but the New School did not follow suit. In April 2017, a request was made for an NLRB review. The next month, the NLRB issued a ruling allowing the student workers to unionize. In July, the decision to unionize passed overwhelmingly. Regardless, negotiations have been slow and difficult, leading to the strike.

For many workers, being allowed to unionize is only part of the battle. More difficult issues are on the horizon even after the NLRB has let them form a union. That includes getting the employer to recognize the union and then negotiating in good faith. Many workers deserve the right to seek employee benefits as a union. Having legal assistance from a law firm that understands collective bargaining and can help the union is a must.