Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Student Union Thuggery

UPDATE: Informational website available here.

Like others in the Pullman community, I have been disturbed by the strong-arm tactics of the United Auto Workers union and their surrogates at WSU. The UAW is attempting to unionize academic student employees. If you are a student involved in this, please drop me a line at palousitics@adelphia.net

It's not surprising that the union shills are members of the Comparative Ethnic Studies and American Studies departments.

First, from the April 1 edition of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News:
Not all WSU academic student employees are in favor of unionizing.

Xyanthe Neider, a doctoral candidate for higher education administration and a teaching assistant in educational psychology, said academic student employees are being bullied into supporting the union.

She said the union is being proposed in a pushy, irresponsible way by local organizers, while UAW bigwigs pull the strings to increase union membership.

"I believe they've been trying to railroad this into law and railroad academic student employees into unionizing," she said, adding that the UAW could stand to make $700,000 in annual union dues from WSU academic students employees alone. "I think some of these students are plants by the UAW."

[WSU graduate student, teacher of comparative ethnic studies and union organizer Sky] Wilson scoffed at Neider's accusations. He said local organizers approached UAW representatives, not the other way around. He added that some organizers are paid, in addition to volunteering.

"With any organizing drive, there's going to be a small amount of people who are ideologically opposed," he said. "But the proof is in the strong majority of ASEs who want unionization."
"Small amount of people who are ideologically opposed?" Hmmmmm. Where have we heard that before?

Lest you think it's only a bunch of wingnuts opposing the union, today's Daily Evergreen offers up even more chilling details:
As rain turned to snow Monday afternoon, graduate students and spectators gathered on Glenn Terrell Mall for the last Under the Big Tent debate of the semester. The topic of conversation was the current push to unionize academic student employees, most of whom are graduate students.

Although participants and spectators were pushed close together under the tents by the inclement weather, there was a noticeable divide in opinions among those in attendance. Four panel members introduced the debate by sharing their reasons for or against unionization under the United Auto Workers. The UAW has more than 1 million members, more than 25,000 of whom are ASEs, said panel member Mary Jo Klinker, a student and teaching assistant in American studies at WSU.

“I’m not against unions in principle,” said panel member Xyan Neider, a doctoral student in the College of Education. “I just question the intentions and motivation of the United Auto Workers. I question paying dues for things I already have.” Klinker said unionizing would create a balance of power between ASEs and the university. “A union would provide a representative democratic process of collective bargaining,” Klinker said. “Contracts would be enforceable and ASEs would have a formal grievance procedure.” David Parsons, president of UAW’s local union at the University of Washington, emphasized the advantages collective bargaining presents. He said unionization at UW has allowed students to influence decisions within the university as well as on the state and national levels. Parsons said UW’s union with UAW has resulted in back pay being payed to union members, and has contractually guaranteed wage increases and health benefits for ASEs.

The final panel member, Steven Davis, a masters student at WSU, voiced concern over unionization and the choice of the UAW to represent students in a academic setting. Like Neider, Davis voiced concern about paying for benefits already provided by the university. “The best option is to try and address our problems with the system we already have before looking to other options,” Davis said. “If the GPSA is ineffectual, it is our fault for not filling the open positions. If we fill those positions and that still doesn’t work we should find someone better to represent us.” Klinker and other advocates of unionization say the GPSA has little authority and has failed to address the concerns of ASEs due to its structure and bureaucracy. The debate escalated when opened to questions from the audience. The majority of questions and comments focused on alleged questionable practices by union supporters. Many in the crowd were visibly upset and said they felt coerced into signing union cards, the purpose of which they thought was to receive more information. The cards that were signed by more than half of ASEs were endorsements to unionize under the UAW, said Heather Knewtson, a WSU doctoral student in finance.

Knewtson said she was visited at work four times and asked to sign the cards even after telling union supporters she was against unionization.

As tempers reached a high point Knewtson said, “The strong voice of students is saying that they’ve been hoodwinked.” Klinker acknowledged the complaints. She said many were false and that the text on the cards clearly stated their purpose. “There has been a lot of misinformation,” she said. “We are investigating these complaints on a case-by-case basis.”
Ah, questionable practices in gathering signatures. Sounds very familiar also. I wonder what they have in common?

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