Board Upholds Student Employee Bargaining Rights
LABOR: Students will choose representative in an upcoming election

UCSD Guardian News
April 30, 1998

A three-member state labor board ruled on Friday that readers, tutors and teaching associates at UCSD are employees and are therefore eligible for collective bargaining rights.

The 2-1 ruling of the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) on an appeal of a 1994 ruling by PERB Judge James Tam marks a victory for the Association of Student Employees affiliated with the United Auto Workers union (ASE/UAW), which has been fighting for university recognition for years.

"The decision shows that the PERB has once again said that student employees have a right to collective bargaining," said ASE/UAW spokesman Anthony Navarrete. "This is an assertion that we have had all along."

UCSD has 20 days to respond to the ruling. If UCSD does not recognize ASE/UAW, an election will be held for the readers, tutors and teaching associates to choose their collective bargaining representative.

UCSD Labor Relations Director Michael Melman said that because the ruling comes down so close to the end of the school year, it is likely that an election will take place next year.

According to Navarrete approximately 500 readers, tutors and teaching associates at UCSD are student academic employees.

Teaching associates are different from teaching assistants (TAs) -- teaching associates are responsible for the instruction of a course whereas teaching assistants aid professors.

According to the ASE/UAW, the university has tried to use a 1984 PERB case that ruled against TAs at UC Berkeley as a precedent against student employees gaining collective bargaining rights.

In Friday's decision, the PERB board stated that it disagrees with the university's argument.

"The board's decision... was based on conditions and job duties existing on the UC Berkeley campus in 1984," the judges wrote in their decision. "We do not find those condition and duties, or the board's decision based on them, determinative of the state of student employees at UCSD more than a decade later."

Melman said that Friday's decision, although it addresses employees other than TAs, goes against the 1984 ruling.

"We believe that this recent decision is in conflict with the [PERB] decision," Melman said.

Melman said that the university believes that students come to seek university employment for the educational opportunities that they present.

"The university believes that the predominant reason that students are on campus is for their educational requirements, their educational objectives, and we think that this employment aspect is secondary to that," Melman said. "We believe that the insertion of an outside, third party would interfere with the relationship between faculty mentors and students. It would interfere with the quality of the education of the students."

Melman added that the university deals with employees unions on a regular basis.

"We just don't feel that it is appropriate for academic student employees," Melman said.

Navarette said student employees should be able to have the same bargaining power as regular university employees.

"What the judge ruled was that the university is using these people to provide labor," Navarette said. "They are using them as a resource to make money and to teach their classes. Therefore they are labor. They are employees, and they have to treat them like that."

The decision does not address the status of teaching assistants and research assistants, and it does not affect the status of readers, tutors and teaching associates at other UC campuses.

Currently, there is a case pending before a PERB panel that would settle the employment status of TAs and research assistants at UCLA.

Last year, teaching assistants and research assistants held 25 total days of university-wide strikes protesting the university's failure to recognize ASE/UAW.

Melman said that these decisions are clarifying a section of the Higher Education Employer Employee Relations Act (HEERA), which regulates labor relations in the UC and CSU systems.

According to Melman, HEERA has provisions that define the status of student employees.