On September 20th, 2019 the majority Trump-appointed National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a proposed new rule that would reclassify graduate workers as students rather than employees. If implemented, this rule would immediately revoke or endanger the rights that teaching assistants, research assistants, graduate assistants, training grant holders, and others are entitled to in their capacity as graduate employees, most importantly the right to collectively bargain over their pay, benefits, and working conditions. This constitutes a direct attack on graduate employees, the universities that employ them, and the institution of higher education itself.
This rule change is part of a larger effort by enemies of higher education and enemies of organized labor to bring about a state of affairs in which workers are too weak to resist their exploitation and academics are too restricted by financial and professional pressures to ask important questions worth answering. Temple University has grown as an institution continuously since 2001 when it began collectively bargaining with the TUGSA, clearly showing that not only are graduate workers here employees, but that the university improves when those workers exercise their collective bargaining rights. Now it is time for Temple to stand in staunch and vocal opposition to these efforts by the NLRB and stake out a place of leadership for itself in the nationwide fight for workers’ rights and academic freedom.
In response to this assault, we the undersigned (students/faculty) of Temple University affirm all of the following principles:
- Graduate employees ARE workers, and as university employees they possess the same rights to unionization and collective bargaining as all other workers.
- The labor provided by graduate workers, who teach hundreds of Temple classes every year, is absolutely vital for the everyday functioning of the university.
- Given the central role of graduate workers in our university, the provision of adequate pay, benefits, and supportive working conditions is a necessary precondition for student learning and institutional success.
We call on Temple President Richard M. Englert to issue a public statement in opposition to the proposed rule and affirming all the above principles on behalf of the university by November 20th, 2019.
With sincerity and solidarity,