Monday, August 14, 2006

Graduate Teaching Assistants Unite

By Bryan O'Keefe

Inside Higher Ed has a wrap-up this morning of a conference held this past weekend for graduate teaching assistants unions. I actually wrote about this very same issue in the latest edition of Labor Watch, which is available here. I also wrote about this last year for Doublethink – that article can be downloaded here.

As both my Labor Watch and Doublethink piece point out, the actual benefits of unionization for teaching assistants are almost nonexistent – and whatever increased benefits ta’s might receive are usually market driven (i.e. Yale raises its stipends, so Harvard does the same). Unfortunately, however, a lot of TA’s are looking for a “cause” and when union organizers swoop onto campus with their “anti-corporate” rhetoric, many teaching assistants are convinced that they too are being abused by “the man.” Of course, it’s a commentary on the state of organized labor that they are now searching for prospective members amongst teaching assistants at elite schools – this seems like a far cry from the steel mills and coal mines of yesteryear.

Never the less, even if the merits are questionable, there is no doubt that colleges and universities are a prime organizing ground for unions. This could have an enoromous negative effect on both the affordability and productivity of higher education and, in turn, hurt students, parents, taxpayers, and colleges themselves. CCAP will be studying this issue more in the future.

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