Local labor group cancels RA unionization vote

Updated: May 2, 2017 at 10:05 p.m.

The day before resident advisers were scheduled to vote on unionization, the local labor group representing RAs withdrew its petition, canceling the election.

In an email sent from unionization organizers to RAs, organizers said they were informed about 5 p.m. Tuesday that the Service Employees International Union Local 500, the union that brought the RA’s case to the National Labor Relations Board, decided to cancel Wednesday’s vote.

Organizers said in the email, obtained by The Hatchet, that they were in “disbelief” about the union’s decision to withdraw its petition after months of organizing.

“We were not consulted in this decision and are upset that RAs will not have the opportunity to express their favor or disfavor for unionization,” the email said. “We do not agree with the decision to pull the vote.”

Calla Gilson, a former RA in Shenkman and Somers halls and a unionization organizer confirmed in an email that the organizing committee found out the election had been canceled Tuesday evening. She said the committee is still seeking more information about the decision.

“The organizing committee was completely blindsided by this decision and is greatly disappointed that RAs will not be able to cast their votes,” she said.

The local union filed a petition on behalf of GW’s RAs last fall, claiming that the advisers were University employees and had the right to form a union. University officials filed an appeal last December arguing that RAs were not legal employees because their job was part of their academic experience.

Last month the NLRB ruled in favor of the RAs allowing them to hold an election to decide if they wanted to form a union.

In its email to RAs, the organizing committee attached a statement from SEIU Local 500 about the union’s decision to withdraw the case. Anne McLeer, the director of higher education at the union, said the group decided to withdraw the petition because the timing of the vote – right before final exam season – was not “ideal” for an election.

“We had only five days in which to ensure participation of RAs in this democratic process, and those five days happened to be in the middle of your exams,” she said in the statement. “We are committed to moving forward with RA unionization at a time when you are in a better position to make an informed decision and build a strong union.”

University spokeswoman Candace Smith said in a statement that the University was “pleased” with decision to cancel the election.

“As we have stated, it does not make sense to apply a federally regulated system of collective bargaining to undergraduate students who are participating for a limited period of time in a program as part of their educational experience,” she said.

Smith said officials will support RAs “as they serve in this important educational leadership role.”

Stewart Robinette, the assistant dean of residential engagement, also notified RAs that the election had been cancelled in an email sent about 6:30 p.m.

In that email, Robinette attached the official notice of election cancellation delivered by Sean Marshall, the acting regional director of the NLRB, who ruled on the case last month.

Austin Hansen, a senior and RA in District House, who formed a counter-unionization group last week, said in an email that he respects the organizers of the unionization movement and the work they put in to improve the RA position.

“There are definitely valid concerns that need to be addressed moving forward,” he said. “That said, I maintain confident in our employer’s ability to continue to work with RAs in addressing these concerns.”

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