Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Many WSU grad students want union cards rescinded"

Union surrogate Mary Jo Klinker has obviously learned well from her WSU American Studies program chair, TV Reed. When you are trying to organize a left-wing cause:

1. Be as vague as possible. Never present any facts, just rhetoric.
2. Be deceptive when gathering petition signatures.
3. If opposed, marginalize the opposition as "small" and led by far-right extremists.
4. Always claim you're in the majority, but never provide any data to back that up.

And that is why, in my opinion, the attempts to unionize graduate students at WSU are as DOA as PARD's efforts to stop Wal-Mart in Pullman.

Congrats to Devin Rokyta for following up on this story. From today's Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
About 200 Washington State University graduate student employees have signed letters that will be sent to the Washington Public Employment Relations Commission requesting to have their union cards rescinded.

Steven Davis, a member of At What Cost, said many student employees were misled when they signed the cards. Unknown to many of them, signing the card meant they were pledging their support to the union that represents more than 25,000 academic student workers nationwide - the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America. Many thought signing the card indicated they wanted to explore the issue further.

"There's plenty of students that want their card back," Davis said.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire recently signed a law allowing student employees at WSU the right to be represented by the union. The law goes into effect in June, and WSU students will vote whether to ratify their contract with the university in June if they elect to unionize.

At least 70 percent of graduate student employees must approve joining the union for it to be ratified. The union must then submit a petition for certification to the Washington Public Employment Relations Committee before contract negotiations can begin.

Davis said he is not anti-union, but he is concerned with the lack of facts being provided by the union and its organizers.

"The biggest issue I have is the way it has been approached," Davis said. "There's so little information; the only thing we get is, 'Collective bargaining is good.'

"At least give us the ability to see the information and really know what we are getting into."

Union organizers say the union will represent the students on issues of workload, grievance procedures, health insurance, vacation and sick leave. The union will charge its members 1.5 percent of their gross income in addition to a $10 initiation fee.

Graduate and Professional Student Association President Manpreet Chahal said his organization hasn't taken a union stance, but it also would like to see more information provided to the students.

"I think there are a lot of students upset over the process," Chahal said. "It could have been done in a better way. I feel like students were kept in the dark and misled on what they were signing and getting into.

"We are not telling our students not to join the union, our goal has been to get information from both sides," he added. "My worry is come summer when everything is a done deal and they are told to pay union dues they will be wondering what is going on."

Scott Goates, an economics graduate student, said he did not feel misled when he was asked to sign a union card, but others in his department have taken issue with recruiting methods.

Goates is upset with the union's lack of response. If several complaints are brought against a recruiter who had collected 100 signed union cards, the union only investigates those individual complaints rather than question all 100 people who signed the cards.

"For me the big problem is the union doesn't seem to want to investigate," Goates said.

Union solicitor Mary Jo Klinker said she would like to hear from anyone who has questions about what they signed. In many cases people think they signed their union card when they actually didn't.

She said the union is investigating claims on a case-by-case basis.

"We have been asking people to come to us so we can address those concerns," Klinker said.

Klinker said much of the concerns are being driven by a small group of people.

"Obviously, we are aware of the fact that people have been encouraged to rescind their union card by a group of anti-union people," she said.

Klinker said the union has support from a supermajority of WSU's more than 1,500 graduate student workers, although she does not have exact figures.

"We have a strong majority who are pro-collective bargaining at WSU," she said.

Davis said the students can get that same representation through the GPSA. The organization already represents students working as teaching assistants, research assistants, graders, and tutors for free.

"I believe all of these issues can be taken care of through channels we already have and that's the GPSA," Davis said. "That to me sounds like a more viable option and one that doesn't cost us any fees."

Klinker said students who are confused about what they signed can contact the union at (509) 334-5220.

Students who signed the card can write to the Public Employment Relations Commission to have it revoked. More information is available at http://wsu-at-what-cost.pbwiki.com/.

No comments: