Its Time to Recognize the Union!

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On March 22 nd , House Advisers at Reed College voted to unionize. With 92 percent of eligible voters participating, 70 percent voted “Yes” in favor of the union.The organizing campaign at Reed follows on the heels of similar union efforts across the country. Unlike other, similar campaigns, the student employees who have unionized at Reed are all undergraduate students. Their union is the Student Workers Coalition. The union initially sought voluntary recognition from Reed College this past fall. Reed refused, so union organizers appealed to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  NLRB regional director Ronald Hooks sided with the Union on March 2nd.

Across a nine-hour hearing this January, Reed argued that student employees weren’t covered by the protections of the National Labor Relations Act; that they had no right to union representation; and that it would be contrary to the interests of federal labor policy to cover Reed’s HAs under the Act. Reed’s student employees, with no access to funding, chose to self-represent. In a carefully reasoned decision, the Regional Director rejected every single one of
Reed’s arguments. Reed has since tried to disrupt the union vote and has spread misinformation among its student-employees and staff. Despite this, Reed’s student-employees are celebrating victory, and continuing to organize.

House Advisers are working together to hold elections for union officers,
and preparing to negotiate a contract. At stake for the House Advisers are issues of fair pay, just cause employment, and workplace democracy. While the union has called on Reed to recognize the democratic will of its employees, Reed may still choose to appeal the Regional Director’s decision on its merits. If it does so, itwill jeopardize the NLRB’s 2016 Columbia University decision, which recognized the rights of private sector graduate and undergraduate student-assistants to unionize.

Reed has thus far argued that the Columbia decision was wrongly decided, and should not apply to its own student-employees. The National Board, which would hear any appeal, is now partially composed of Trump appointees. Should it appeal, Reed will be gambling with the rights of graduate and undergraduate student employees across the country. It remains unclear how the Reed administration can justify its reliance on a Trump-approved Board.

Reed has offered no reason for its opposition to unionization. When college
administrators refused to voluntarily recognize the union this fall, they claimed their reason for doing so was because the union had not shown democratic support among Reed’s student-employees. Our election is a refutation of this claim. It’s time to tell Reed enough is enough. Recognize working students!

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