Grad students seeking legal options as they plan to form union

1 year 3 months 3 days ago April 20, 2016 Apr 20, 2016 Wednesday, April 20 2016 Wednesday, April 20, 2016 2:07:00 PM CDT in News
By: Zack Newman, KOMU 8 Reporter and Shannon Shaver, KOMU 8 Digital Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA – The Coalition of Graduate Workers (CGW) said it will take legal action against the University of Missouri if necessary if the school doesn't recognize the student's formation of a union.

According to a news release from the CGW, 84 percent of MU graduate students voted to unionize in Monday and Tuesday’s elections.

The CGW said it will only take legal action if the university does not recognize graduate students as employees, and if they do not recognize the result of the students’ recent election.

 “We would still prefer it, absolutely, if they would understand and recognize the results of the election for what they are,” said Eric Scott, MU graduate student and co-chair of the CGW. “Which is to say, a mandate from graduate student workers that they want a union and that they would just recognize us and we can avoid all of that, but we are absolutely ready to go on that legal action.”

Tensions between the university and graduate students have been strained since MU suddenly announced in August it would no longer be offering health insurance subsidies for graduate students. That decision was rescinded after students and faculty voiced protested.

Graduate students have since demanded wages for graduate assistants that are above the poverty line, on-campus child care, affordable housing, tuition waivers and a guaranteed, fully subsidized health care plan.

Scott said he was "ecstatic" about the results of the union election.

“This whole year, the process of organizing this union, in some ways, was like taking on another full-time job in addition to the job I already have teaching students here,” he said.

With the help from the League of Women Voters, MU graduate students set up the election themselves after the administration did not offer any assistance.

Scott said they originally asked university officials to work with them to create the election.

“They sort of beat around the bush for a couple of months and then said, ‘no, we’re not going to work with you on an election because we think there’s this legal uncertainty about whether or not you can count as employees,’” Scott said.

Scott said a union will be a way to solve issues before there is a level of crisis.

“We’re looking for something that provides a framework for us to negotiate and build up a system for the future, so that we don’t have to have big crisis years like this one in order to get anything done,” Scott said.

He said the organizer of the last attempted union at the University of Missouri, Jackie McGrath, has been in contact with him.

In a recent letter to the editor published in the Columbia Missourian, McGrath expressed regret over stopping the efforts to form a union during her time as a graduate student in 2003. She said the efforts ended when the university met McGrath’s immediate demands of covering the premium of grad students’ health insurance plans.

In an email to graduate students on April 6, MU Interim Chancellor Hank Foley said he was surprised and disappointed that administration was not consulted regarding the announcement of the election. Foley said that, because there is a question of the legality of a graduate student union, the students’ decision to unionize could not be recognized by the university.

Scott said Foley’s statements were confusing to the CGW.

“That was a very puzzling statement to us, since we had been in meetings with administration since January telling them about our process and our timeline,” Scott said.

According to Scott, the CGW sent emails to Foley and other administrators, including the Board of Curators, just hours after the polling centers were approved to be in the MU Student Center and Memorial Student Union.

“If it was a surprise then that points out that there must be some pretty bad communication failures within the hierarchy of the administration,” Scott said.

The university issued a statement on the matter via email: "The University will not consider the graduate students’ vote binding until the larger question of whether students can unionize in Missouri is resolved. Legal counsel representing the Coalition of Graduate Workers indicated on March 12 that they were going to seek a declaratory judgment from the courts regarding this issue, but to date, this has not been done. In the interim, we will continue to work collaboratively with them to address their remaining concerns."

Missouri law states that employees of any public body may unionize, however the statute excludes police, deputy sheriffs, Missouri state highway patrolmen, Missouri National Guard, and all teachers of Missouri schools, colleges and universities.

The legal question is whether or not graduate students, working as teaching assistants, are considered employees.

Scott said graduate students want to unionize because of how they are treated.

The Graduate Student Experience Task Force met from May to December 2015 to analyze issues affecting graduate students. It consisted of graduate students, professors and deans at the University of Missouri. The findings were published on December 22, 2015.  

The task force found UM ranked below other universities in the Association of American Universities. For instance, doctoral stipend averages are $1,000-$3,000 less than the university’s Association of American Universities counterparts.

The organization also sought improvements in housing, childcare, workload and office space.

There has been a recent shift in legal precedent within the realm of private universities. The National Labor Board ruled in a 2000 case concerning graduate students at the New York University that they should be considered employees. The same judicial body reversed its course in a 2004 case dealing with graduate students at Brown University.

During the annual State of the University address in January, Foley announced that, beginning in July, the minimum stipend for graduate students would increase by $3,000 a year to $15,000.

While administration said they have been working with the CGW on things like stipends and graduate student housing, Scott said students want to see a bigger change.

“We’re looking for something more than just the solution to a few pressing issues,” Scott said. “Obviously it’s very important to us that we seek movement on all of those issues, but we’re also looking for a more permanent solution.”

More News

Grid
List
Golf, softball, walking the dog… being in the sun means that we need to be diligent about protecting our skin.... More >>
44 minutes ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 2:44:00 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The St. Louis Police Department is looking at whether more training is necessary after an off-duty... More >>
54 minutes ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 2:33:25 PM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — Some Democratic Missouri lawmakers are reviving efforts to prevent cuts to in-home and nursing care for... More >>
1 hour ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 2:18:31 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Police detectives arrested a man Sunday night after detectives connected him to a weekend shooting that left one... More >>
1 hour ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 1:40:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - A petition to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare," was delivered to Sen. Roy Blunt’s... More >>
1 hour ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 1:29:00 PM CDT in News
ARNOLD, Mo. (AP) — The Latest on a police chase and shooting that shut down a busy highway near St.... More >>
3 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 12:01:00 PM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A central Missouri woman has pleaded guilty to federal charges for defrauding her employer. Prosecutors... More >>
3 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 11:57:00 AM CDT in News
SUNRISE BEACH, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say one person has been flown to a hospital in serious condition and six... More >>
4 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 11:20:00 AM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — St. Louis police say a 10-year-old boy who died after being shot in the head was... More >>
4 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 11:15:00 AM CDT in News
OSAGE BEACH, Mo. (AP) — Authorities say a man has drowned in the Lake of the Ozarks after jumping off... More >>
5 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 10:26:00 AM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A man is charged with attacking four homeless people with a hammer as they slept in... More >>
5 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 10:22:00 AM CDT in News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri senators are returning to the Capitol for a special session on abortion legislation. ... More >>
5 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 10:16:00 AM CDT in News
FULTON — The Fulton Fire Department is investigating the cause of a house fire on Nichols Street early Monday. ... More >>
6 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 9:26:00 AM CDT in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Authorities say a taxi driver has fatally shot a passenger in his cab on Interstate 70... More >>
7 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 8:03:00 AM CDT in News
FULTON – Westminster College begins three different summer academic programs this week, one of which has never been seen before... More >>
7 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 7:42:00 AM CDT in News
COLUMBIA – The “Cornerstones of Columbia” event will take place Monday night starting at 5:30 outside of “Hittsville,” where the... More >>
8 hours ago July 24, 2017 Jul 24, 2017 Monday, July 24 2017 Monday, July 24, 2017 6:51:00 AM CDT in News
COLUMBIA - Missouri's executive office is working on an initiative to help bolster the sales of Missouri farmers within the... More >>
19 hours ago July 23, 2017 Jul 23, 2017 Sunday, July 23 2017 Sunday, July 23, 2017 7:58:00 PM CDT in News
COLUMBIA- Two gym owners pushed a truck around town to raise money for charity Sunday afternoon. Michael Egnew and... More >>
21 hours ago July 23, 2017 Jul 23, 2017 Sunday, July 23 2017 Sunday, July 23, 2017 5:34:00 PM CDT in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 86°
4pm 87°
5pm 87°
6pm 87°
7pm 85°

Select a station to view its upcoming schedule:

Coming Up Next

3:00p
Dr. Phil
4:00p
Jeopardy!
4:30p
Jeopardy!
3:00p
The Robert Irvine Show
4:00p
Cops Reloaded
4:30p
The Cleveland Show

Tonight's Schedule

7:00p
American Ninja Warrior
9:00p
Midnight, Texas
7:00p
Supergirl
8:00p
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
8:30p
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
9:00p
KOMU 8 News @ Nine on The CW
9:30p
Seinfeld