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University files written argument with Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board

Robin Kaler, director of communications
(217) 333-5010



CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Illinois today filed its written argument with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in Chicago regarding the issue of graduate assistant unionization at the Urbana campus.

The brief filed by the university is consistent with the position the university has taken from the outset of this case. The proposal outlined in the university's brief would streamline and expedite a resolution of this matter.

On Nov. 14, the IELRB ordered the university and the Graduate Employees Organization to submit in writing proposals for putting into effect a ruling by the First District Illinois Appellate Court.

The court had ruled in June that assistants whose duties are not significantly connected to their role as students may be included in a bargaining unit. The court remanded the case to the labor board to determine which graduate assistants' jobs lack a significant connection to the students' graduate studies. Those assistants whose jobs lacked that connection could then form a bargaining unit and vote in an election to unionize. About 5,500 graduate students at the Urbana campus have assistantships.

In the argument filed today, the UI proposed that a graduate student holding an assistantship at Urbana be eligible for inclusion in a bargaining unit of assistants if he or she satisfied these criteria: he or she was admitted and enrolled as a graduate student; holds the formal title of graduate assistant, teaching assistant or research assistant; receives as part of the assistantship a full or partial tuition and fee waiver, and a monetary non-hourly stipend; and the assistantship duties he or she perform lack a significant connection to the individual's role as a student.

A significant connection exists, the university said, if any of these criteria apply:

1. teaching assistants whose duties involve teaching, grading, conducting labs, leading discussion groups, developing instructional materials or plans, supervising delivery of instruction, advising and/or tutoring students. (It is not necessary that the teaching assistantship be a prerequisite to obtain a degree, or in the department of enrollment.) or

2. Research assistants whose duties involve mastering and applying research concepts, practices or methods, such as conducting experiments, analyzing data, presenting findings, and assisting faculty in publications or research. (It is not necessary that the research assistantship involve work related to the individual's dissertation, or in the department of enrollment.) or

3. Graduate assistants whose duties involve pre-professional activities that help prepare them for careers and/or perform duties substantially similar to duties performed by graduates in their professional career field. (It is not necessary that the assistantship be in the individual's department of enrollment.)

The university believes that the IELRB's 1998 findings that "significant connections" exist for teaching assistants, research assistants and certain graduate assistants are still valid and are not affected by the appellate court's opinion. The university also believes the labor board should remand this case to an administrative law judge for findings limited to whether significant connections exist for graduate assistants working in departments which were not considered as part of the labor board's 1998 decision.