Imagine having parents dropping a child off at your college and finding that there is a picket line up with the resident advisors (RAs) indicating that they are on strike against the college. Sound unreal? Actually it may be what college administrators, parents and students find at George Washington University next fall as the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has just ordered that an election be held. The election will determine whether the student resident advisors want to be represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The SEIU had filed a petition with the NLRB to represent the RAs. After a hearing to determine whether the RAs were “employees” under labor law, the Regional Director has said they are. The Regional Director notes that they are paid a stipend and given free room. They are given a job description and their performance is supervised in accordance with school policy. In short, the RAs are paid to perform services for the University while being subject to the University’s control in what they do. The University argued that the students choose to be RAs in order to have informal peer-to-peer mentoring relationships and to serve as role models, roles that are unlike any other on campus. The University also argued that public policy should bar organizing, as the relationship was primarily educational and deeply rooted in the relationship between the RAs and the students.
The NLRB has ordered an election, which interestingly will occur about the time almost a third of the RAs will graduate. If the outcome of the election is determined by the seniors who have been RAs, they will certainly leave a lasting legacy.