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APA Board Submits Comment in Support of Graduate Students’ Right to Unionize

Tuesday, November 5, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Erin Shepherd
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The APA board of officers has approved and submitted the following comment to the US National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in response to its proposed rule on graduate student workers:

The NLRB announced in September 2019 a proposed new rule exempting undergraduate and graduate students of the jurisdiction of the agency, including a federally protected right to unionize. (See: https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/news-story/nlrb-proposes-rulemaking-concerning-students)

As the largest scholarly society of academic philosophy teachers and researchers in North America, representing more than 8,000 members, the American Philosophical Association (APA) strongly opposes the proposed reversal of a 2016 decision that gave graduate student workers a federally backed right to unionize, on which many have come to rely. Like faculty members, graduate students are employed by colleges and universities as teachers and researchers. The teaching and research support that graduate students provide at many colleges and universities is essential to the missions and success of those institutions. Like faculty members, graduate students have an interest in securing fair compensation and adequate working conditions for the services they provide. In 1976, the APA formally adopted the position that there is no inherent conflict between the professional status of faculty members and unionization. Whether unionization will best serve their employment interests and educational objectives and values is something that faculty and graduate students should be entitled to decide for themselves. It is thus the APA’s position that graduate students should have the right to unionize and participate in collective bargaining should they vote democratically to do so. The APA urges the National Labor Relations Board to maintain the current rule, which recognizes and codifies the right of graduate students to unionize.

The board submitted this comment following an informal poll of APA members and constituents, initiated by the APA’s Graduate Student Council. The overwhelming majority—more than 90 percent of all respondents, and nearly 95 percent of graduate student respondents—favored the APA submitting a comment in support of graduate student workers’ right to unionize and opposing the adoption of the proposed rule. Less than 7 percent of respondents preferred the APA not comment on the proposed rule, and less than 3 percent of respondents wanted the APA to comment in support of the proposed rule.

The above comment also maintains the APA’s historical position in support of its members’ right to unionize, which was codified by the APA board in 1976 on the recommendation of an ad hoc committee on collective bargaining and unionization.

Those wishing to submit their own comments to the NLRB on the proposed rule may do so here through December 16.


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