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Georgetown grad students vote to unionize

  • November 9, 2018
We don’t need no NLRB

Georgetown University graduate students voted overwhelmingly to unionize in an election held this week, according to announcements today from the student bargaining committee and university officials.  This election was overseen by the American Arbitration Association in order to keep the election review away from the National Labor Relations Board. Students were concerned the Board might disavow a previous Board ruling allowing graduate students to organize. 

Eighty-three percent of the 663 graduate employees who participated in the vote supported representation by a union, according to the announcement.

The Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, delivered to the administration today an intent to bargain letter. The “best possible” contract, the union said, would assure “a living wage, decent benefits and dignified working conditions.”

“We have a shared belief in the important role that graduate student assistants play at Georgetown and a shared commitment to giving them a stronger voice as members of our community,” GAGE, the American Federation of Teachers and Georgetown University officials said in a joint statement.


On November 5-8, an election will be held to determine whether Graduate Student Assistants at Georgetown University want to be represented by the Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees (GAGE) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) for purposes of collective bargaining.  

Who Is Eligible to Vote in the Election?  
All Ph.D. and Master’s students actively enrolled in Georgetown University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences graduate degree programs, who are serving or have served as Ph.D. Research Assistants, Ph.D. Teaching Assistants, Ph.D. Teaching Associates, Graduate Research Assistants, Graduate Teaching Assistants, Student Research Assistants, and/or Student Teaching Assistants during the Fall 2017, Spring 2018, and/or Fall 2018 semesters.

When Will the Election Be Held?
November 5, 6, 7, and 8, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Where Will the Election Be Held?
You may vote at any of the following polling locations:

  • ICC – McGhee Library in SFS, on the 3rd floor, main level
  • Lauinger Library – Millennium Room
  • Medical Center – GF11 in the Preclinical Science Building  
  • Regents Hall – Conference Room 451  

map showing each of these polling locations is attached to this Notice.

How Will the Election be Conducted?
This will be a secret ballot election conducted by the American Arbitration Association.  

The election will be decided by a majority of those eligible Graduate Student Assistants who actually vote in the election.   

Electioneering will be prohibited within 100 feet of any voting location.

Can I Request an Absentee Ballot?  
You may request an absentee ballot if you are unable to be on campus on any of the dates and times listed above because you are participating in a University, School, or department-approved program or activity in the furtherance of your degree or because of work you perform on behalf of the University outside of the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

Absentee ballots must be requested no later than October 29, 2018, by sending an email to Maria Landi at the American Arbitration Association explaining why you cannot be on campus on any of the dates and times for the election: 

How Tuesdays Election Could Impact Labor Policy

  • November 5, 2018

Politico published the following analysis about potential future outcomes from tomorrow’s election.  It’s worth a read.

A year ago, Democratic leaders unveiled a set of labor bills branded a “Better Deal” for workers.

“Should we get the majority,” Senate Minority Chuck Schumer said, “this is going to be at the top of our list early January 2019.”

That promise is taking on new relevance as Democrats are forecast to regain the House in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Over the past two years, Democrats have quietly laid out a road map for how they would reshape labor law. Although Schumer probably won’t be involved directly — Republicans are expected to keep the Senate — he and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi are in lock step on labor issues.

Without a Democratic Senate majority, however, these bills have virtually no chance of advancing past the House.

Here’s some of what House Democrats might move:

Unions and the NLRB

Democrats want the National Labor Relations Board to intervene more aggressively on behalf of workers. That possibility is already stirring opposition from the Chamber of Commerce, which last week published a report urging businesses to unify against it.

The Democrats have proposed two major pieces of legislation concerning labor unions: the Workplace Democracy Act, introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), and the Workers Freedom to Negotiate Act, introduced by Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and would-be House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.).

The Workplace Democracy Act would:

— Repeal state right-to-work laws that prohibit mandatory fees charged to union non-members to cover their share of collective bargaining costs;

— Allow workers to form a union through “card check,” an informal process that avoids an NLRB-run secret-ballot election, without first securing permission from management;

— Permit workers to organize secondary boycotts and pickets that target companies that do business with their employer (prohibited by the 1947 Taft-Hartley amendments to the NLRA, which also ended unencumbered card check elections and authorized states to pass right-to-work laws);

— Reinstate the Obama administration’s so-called persuader rule, which a federal judge struck down in 2016; the rule required employers to disclose the hiring of outside consultants to counter union drives even when the consultants didn’t interact with workers (previously consultants who interacted only with management were exempt);

— Codify the Obama-era Browning-Ferris standard on joint employment, which made it easier for businesses to be held liable for labor violations committed by their franchisees and contractors.

The Workers Freedom to Negotiate Act would:

— Overturn Janus v. AFSCMEthe Supreme Court decision that imposed right-to-work rules on public employee unions;

— Allow the NLRB to levy fines for NLRA violations (rather than merely collect back pay), and hold company managers personally responsible if they knew about a violation and failed to stop it;

— Allow workers to sue their employer in civil court in addition to filing an NLRB complaint;

— Allow workers to demonstrate in “solidarity” with workers from other businesses and allow workers to engage in sporadic — or “intermittent” — strikes.

— Bar managers from requiring employees to attend “persuader” meetings;

— Write into law an Obama-era rule requiring federal contractors to disclose labor violations (opponents often refer to this as the “blacklisting” rule);

— Nationalize California’s so-called “ABC” test, making it harder for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors;

— Overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems v. Lewiswhich allowed employers to require employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements barring participation in class action lawsuits.

Paid Family Leave

The House may take up the FAMILY Act, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), which has emerged as Democrats’ favorite paid family leave bill. It would give new mothers and fathers 12 weeks’ paid leave, as well as workers tending an ailing family member. It would be funded through new employee and employer taxes, replacing up to 66 percent of each worker’s salary (up to a capped amount).

Even though Trump has said he’ll sign a paid leave bill (in deference to his daughter, Ivanka Trump, a strong advocate for paid leave), this bill, too, would likely die in the Senate.

Minimum wage

Scott’s Raise the Wage Act, which would phase in over several years an increase to $15 in the hourly minimum wage, has support from more than 170 Democrats, including Pelosi (Sanders has a Senate bill by the same name). After years of forcefully advocating a minimum-wage hike, Democrats almost have to take a symbolic vote, and anything less than $15 probably wouldn’t fly with party’s left flank. This bill, too, would almost certainly be dead on arrival in the Senate.

“It’s an easy vote for the Democrats to push in the House,” said Marc Freedman, vice president of employment policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “because nobody who has to worry about it thinks it will go anywhere.”

Labor Relations Round-Up

  • October 24, 2018
National Labor Relations Logo

Law360 staff authorizes strike

The staff of the subscription-based legal news service Law360 Tuesday authorized a strike against management over wages, healthcare and retirement benefits.

In a written statement, the NewsGuild of New York said the vote came “after two years at the bargaining table and no contract to show for it.”

“The vote allows union leaders at the LexisNexis-owned legal news site to call for a strike if management does not promptly make significant movement in negotiations toward finalizing a strong, first contract,” the union said.

Since the union was formed in 2016, it’s persuaded management to eliminate story quotas and non-compete agreements. It’s also negotiated layoff protections, regulation of subcontracting, overtime pay and bereavement leave.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce today praised the Labor Department’s proposal to allow small businesses to band together to offer retirement savings plans for employees.

Aliya Wong, the Chamber’s director of retirement policy, said in a written statement that the proposal would “expand retirement savings opportunities for millions of small business employees.”

The proposal follows through on an executive order that President Donald Trump signed in August, allowing businesses in a variety of industries to pool resources in a way that current regulations do not permit. DOL wrote a similar rule for health plans this year that was praised by the Chamber.

Both actions have helped soften sometimes icy relations between the Trump administration and the business lobby, which find themselves at odds over immigration and trade.

NLRB refuses to reconsider camera phones decision, again

The National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday declined, for the second time, to reconsider a 2017 decision that made it permissible for employers to restrict the use of camera phones at work.

In a brief opinion, the NLRB said that a local chapter of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades “has not demonstrated extraordinary circumstances warranting reconsideration.” The union in August had asked the NLRB to reconsider its decision, which concerned the aerospace giant Boeing. The union, in its filing, pointed to alleged ethics conflicts with Chairman John Ring and member William Emanuel.

In an Aug. 14 petition, the union complained that Ring’s and Emanuel’s former law firms — Morgan Lewis and Littler Mendelson, respectively — had separately represented Boeing and Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino. The latter company was the subject of a 2015 decision in which the NLRB, then controlled by Democrats, found that camera-phone restrictions violated employees’ collective bargaining rights.

But last year, the Republican-controlled board issued a decision in the Boeing case that was more favorable to employers. In that decision, the NLRB found that Boeing’s restriction of camera phones was unrelated to employees’ collective bargaining.

The painters’ union, in response, asked that Ring and Emanuel — as well as Republican member Marvin Kaplan — recuse themselves from the case. But the three members denied the request, concluding that the union didn’t have standing to intervene.

“How would anyone in his or her right mind want to have a case decided by a judge [whose] firm (albeit a large firm) had represented the very client (in 3 this case, Boeing and Rio-All Suites’ parent corporations) in other litigation[?],” the painters’ union wrote in its second motion for reconsideration. “No one would consider this not to ’cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question his impartiality.'”

“No one could believe that an adjudicator or Board member could fairly decide a case involving his firm’s former and current client,” the union added.

The NLRB did not agree, dismissing the complaint without additional explanation.

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