Thursday, April 15, 2010

Unionized TA's

by Peter Neiger

Inside of an institution of higher education there are many players driven by different incentives and goals, but the ultimate mission of educating students is supposed to come first. Unfortunately, the federal government and organized labor are actively working against providing a quality and affordable education for undergraduates. As Inside Higher Ed reported on Monday, the new make-up of the National Labor Relations Board will be actively work to get graduate teaching assistants to collectively bargain at private universities.

Chair Wilma B. Liebman of the NLRB has stated they will take a “more dynamic” approach to pursuing changes to policies implemented by the Bush-era NLRB. While unionization of graduate students may seem like a small step, it could prove to be harmful to both undergraduate students as well as the teaching assistants it is intended to help.

Financial times are tough and if graduate students make themselves less employable by demanding more out of their TA positions they are setting themselves up to be phased out. Universities are becoming increasingly creative at outsourcing grading and teaching, making TA’s more replaceable than ever. Even talk of collective bargaining by the NLRB could be the final straw for many institutions looking to cut costs.

Graduate students should be actively working to prove their value to the universities, not turning themselves into a liability. Universities exist to teach students, not provide graduate students with jobs. When TA’s are no longer working towards that same end, the TA’s will no longer have a job, and the tuition remission that often goes with it.

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