Student assistants and faculty at colleges and universities throughout the St. Louis area are celebrating the decision reached by the National Labor Relations Board to restore the rights of student assistants to join unions.
Graduate students at Saint Louis University held a rally to commemorate this victory and plan for the future. This decision recognizes undergraduate and graduate student assistants as employees under federal law and allows them to join together as employees for a voice at work.
“I’m thrilled that graduate assistants will now be recognized as the employees that we are,” said Elizabeth Eikmann, a graduate student in American Studies at Saint Louis University. “My student status should not mean I don’t deserve a fair wage with benefits. We are ready to work together and improve our working conditions in ways that benefit not only our professional goals, but also the educational and research mission of our universities.
“Higher education should provide opportunities, but the lack of investment in the core mission of our schools and efforts to limit the input from the employees who are teaching and conducting groundbreaking research is breaking that promise to students and employees alike. Graduate assistants understand the needs of students and educators and are ready to work together and improve our working conditions to not only to achieve our professional goals, but to ensure higher education institutions are living up to their missions to provide a public good through education.”
The nearly 2,500 graduate students in the St. Louis area could join Service Employees International Union Local 1 and join with faculty at schools across the St. Louis market, including those at Saint Louis University, Washington University, St. Louis Community College and St. Charles Community College.
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said, “SEIU members from all walks of life value the work and important role graduate students play at our universities. But as colleges act more like big corporations, they shift more financial risk and uncertainty onto the shoulders of graduate student workers, who are already striving to balance the demands of their research and scholarship with the needs of their undergraduate students. This decision gives graduate student employees the opportunity to join faculty at nearly 50 universities who have joined SEIU since 2013 and have won dramatic improvements in their pay, working conditions and built a growing movement to transform higher education.”
SEIU Local 1 has been working with college and university professors throughout the Midwest to give them a voice on the job; address the low compensation for their work; and to ensure greater benefits and job security.