Fact Sheet for SB 259 (Hancock), 2011

Purpose of Legislation:   Expand the right to choose collective bargaining to the 14,000 Research Assistants (Graduate Student Researchers) at the University of California, under the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) and maintain collective bargaining rights for those student employees who currently have them.

Background:  A majority of student employees employed by the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and the California State University have been granted the opportunity to choose collective bargaining under HEERA.  Several years ago, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) determined that under the current statutory language, UC’s 12,000 Teaching Assistants (TAs), Readers and Tutors had the right to choose collective bargaining under HEERA, but that student Research Assistants (RAs) did not.

Continuity Problem:  Graduate students frequently go in and out of the Teaching Assistant bargaining unit, since they are employed as both TAs and RAs during their time at UC.  They work in these jobs for five to ten years.  The movement between these jobs creates a lack of continuity, with the same group of workers having unequal rights and benefits from one term to the next.  When student employees work as Research Assistants, the contractual rights they have when they work as Teaching Assistants disappear.  They lose child care subsidies, family leave, workload protections, job security rights, contractual redress for non-discrimination and health and safety, grievance and arbitration procedures and much more.

Projected Costs:  Approximately 85% of RAs are funded by non-State sources, such as federal and private grants.  UC already extends the TA health insurance to RAs and their wage ranges are comparable.   Additional costs to bring the RAs up to the TA standard would be small and most could be charged to federal and private grants.  The cost of granting child care subsidies to RAs (based upon the same usage rate as TAs) would be less than $150,000 per year.

Do RAs Have Collective Bargaining Rights at Other Universities? Student employees equivalent to RAs at CSU are covered under HEERA by voluntary agreement with CSU.  RAs, represented by the UAW, are also covered under collective bargaining laws at the University of Washington and the University of Massachusetts.

Sponsor:  This legislation is being sponsored by UAW Locals 2865 and 5810 and the International Union, UAW,  Local 2865 represents 12,000 academic student employees (Teaching Assistants, Tutors and Readers) at the University of California.  The UAW represents 25,000 academic workers at UC and CSU.  Contacts:  Charlie Eaton, financial at uaw2865 dot org, 510.220.1520, and Mary Ann Massenburg, Labor Advocate, mmassenburg at gmail dot com, 510-334-6171.

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