Favor of Union Representation Assignment
- The election results showed that 138 RAs and CDAs supported union representation, and 88 voted against union representation. What should be done for those RAs who voted against union representation? Are their rights being violated?
- What if the vote had been 138 against union representation and 88 votes in favor of union representation? If this were true, what should be done for RAs who voted for union representation? Is your answer here consistent with your answer to the previous question?
- What do you see as the university’s options at this point in the case? What would you recommend? Why?
bargaining in good faith?
In late March 2002, a letter was sent from Associate Provost Susan Pearson to UAW Local 2322 President James Shaw stating: “We believe that the decision of the MLRC that led to its certification of this bargaining unit represents a misapplication of the relevant state statute. We, therefore, consistent with applicable procedures … decline to enter into any negotiations on this matter” (Campbell, 2002, March 27). The university stood by its argument that R As were primarily students, not employees, and that labor law was not intended to cover undergraduate students. The university wanted to take its objections to the Massachusetts state courts and chose not bargain with the union until the issue was resolved through those processes (Brown, 2002, May 1).
James Shaw responded to the letter with the following statement: “Administrators at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have said they will break the law and refuse to negotiate with the newly formed union of student resident assistants. … We are disappointed that university administrators consider themselves above the law. We renew our demand that UMass respect the decision of the MLRC and more importantly of the R As themselves and come to the bargaining table” (Campbell, 2002, March 27). Shaw added, “Once workers vote in favor of the union, the employer has to sit down and bargain. … That’s the law” (Anonymous, 2002c).
R As who supported unionization were discouraged by the news. One union advocate said, “A lot of us are kind of disheartened, not that it happened, but that the university is undermining the democratic process. They are not challenging the vote; they are challenging our right to vote, and that is a little more insidious.” Another R A said, “We had hoped that we could build a relationship of mutual
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respect by sitting down and bargaining a contract together. Unfortunately, it looks like we will have to continue our struggle for recognition by reaching out to the community. We have earned our right to a union by working hard and winning a democratic union election, and we have no intention of giving up” (Campbell, 2002, March 27).
By this time, the conflict between the R As and university officials was receiving widespread media attention. In a column that appeared in the editorial section of The Washington Post, Lance Compa, an international labor law scholar at Cornell University, accused the university of violating human rights. Compa said, “Before they are students or employees, teaching assistants and resident assistants are persons. International human rights law upholds their right to: look to one another for support, form their own organizations, choose their own leaders and advocate their own interests through bargaining. …When many U.S. universities call for human rights and labor rights for workers in foreign countries producing goods with the school’s logo, they should also show equal concern for the rights of their own employees” (Compa, 2002).
- What does it mean to “bargain in good faith”?
- How can the union respond to the university’s stance at this point?
- Does the university face a public relations dilemma? Has the university contributed to the dilemma?
charges, PubLic camPaign, Protests
Because of the university’s refusal to bargain, the UAW filed an unfair labor practice charge with the MLRC. While the MLRC reviewed the charge, the university announced that any MLRC ruling would be appealed to the state courts (Helman, 2002, April 30). At the same time, union supporters began a public campaign to pressure the university to recognize and bargain with the union. They set up mock bargaining tables outside of the main administration building on campus to embarrass university officials and to symbolically show the R As’ eagerness and the university’s unwillingness to negotiate. In addition, they picketed in front of the associate provost’s home and placed a mock bargaining table in the street outside her home (Lamothe, 2002, May 9).
On the morning of April 8, more than two dozen union activists marched into Interim Chancellor Williams’ office and demanded to speak with her. After being told that she was away on business in Boston, the protestors sat down in her office suite, chanted pro-union slogans, read aloud the Massachusetts General Law regarding employee rights to collective bargaining and employer obligations to bargain in good faith, and The Washington Post column written by Compa. The protestors were told that if they did not leave, public safety would be called, and they could be arrested. A protestor responded by saying, “The university is breaking the law. … They’re not acting with integrity.” Another R A said, “We have done
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everything legal up to this point. We’re here because the university feels that it doesn’t have to play by the rules. We’re not going to stand by and let UMass break the law” (Campbell, 2002, April 9).
The protestors left William’s office but moved to other buildings on campus. Finally, the protestors went to the offices of the vice chancellor for student affairs and demanded to speak to Vice Chancellor Cevallos. Within minutes, the acting chief of police and two uniformed officers arrived on the scene. The protestors quickly dispersed. One protesting R A said, “This was just a warning shot” (Campbell, 2002, April 9).