A GW vice president canceled last Thursday’s meeting with representatives of the Graduate Teaching Assistant-Adjunct Alliance as the group tries to gain union recognition at the University.
“We regret the confusion over the earlier scheduled meeting, but now that it’s clear we’re dealing with a unionization effort, there are a host of duties and responsibilities that the administration must be aware of,” GW spokeswoman Barbara Porter said.
Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said the nature of the proposed meeting that GTAAA members wanted was not what he had originally envisioned and that GW does not recognize the union. He said he is willing to meet with Student Association Vice President for Graduate Policy Emily Cummins and discuss issues about graduate teaching assistants, but he said he has no plans to meet with union representatives. GTAAA is lobbying the University for better salaries and benefits.
Cummins said the meeting was supposed to include herself, Lehman and members of the GTAAA. She said only she is scheduled to meet with Lehman Thursday. Cummins said she thinks it was “inappropriate” of Lehman to cancel the meeting, and she said the union movement will not end. She said Lehman agreed to meet individually just with her, as a representative of the SA and not as a union representative.
“It was only after publicity around the rally and the meeting with (SA President) Phil (Meisner) that (Lehman) decided to cancel it,” Cummins said.
Meisner said his meeting with Lehman was routine and had nothing to do with the cancellation of the GTAAA’s meeting with Lehman.
Meisner said he is continuing to evaluate his position on the GTAAA issue. He said the GTAAA’s goal to become a recognized union at GW is a complex and murky issue.
“It’s like standing in front of a big sheet of fog,” Meisner said.
Meisner said there is an SA resolution in the Academic Affairs Committee and that he will have to make a decision on the subject soon.
“I find it interesting that Vice President Lehman would choose to renege on his commitment to meet,” said Jon White, a GTAAA organizer.
White said the GTAAA will continue to organize GTAs and part-time instructors. He said the GTAAA agreed to meet with Lehman because Lehman previously said no GTAAA members had come to him to talk about their concerns.
“We agreed to meet with him as a courtesy,” White said.
Lehman said union movements at universities are not limited to GW. He said other private universities, including New York and Yale universities, are also facing union movements.
“In effect, GW is being targeted,” Lehman said. “And I don’t understand all the ramifications of it.”