Union organizing among students is not just limited to teaching assistants. Other students who are being paid and supervised by a college or university may select a bargaining representative, at least, until the Labor Board gets to revisit the Columbia University decision that permitted teaching assistants to join a union.
Now Reed College is facing an election among its student housing advisors or residence advisors. The NLRB’s Regional Director found that the student housing advisors were employees because they were paid the equivalent of their yearly room and board expenses, but also because they had to apply for the positions and then be trained to do the job. They had to come to campus before students arrived and remain on campus to close the dormitories. They also had to sign an agreement that laid out expectations and disciplinary guidelines. Their job performance was reviewed and if there were negative evaluations then the student could be disciplined or terminated from the position.
The College argued that the Columbia University decision was wrongly decided and that it did not apply in this case as this was not a teaching assistants case. The College emphasized that what the housing advisors did was focused on supporting and mentoring other students which is inseparable from their role as students.
The Regional Director concluded that the housing assistants were performing services for compensation, that the College was controlling what and how they provided the services and that there was no compelling policy reason to exclude them from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act.
The College also argued that if the housing assistants were covered by the law, that they should not be a separate group, but that other students who were paid for services should be part of the potential bargaining unit. The other student categories were: student health advocates, students assisting with the safety of other students during weekend evenings and special social events, students mentoring international students, students assisting students understand consent rules and what the College’s policies and procedures in response to sexual misconduct and sexual harassment complaints, and students serving as career advisors and as tutors. Again, the Regional Director rejected the creation of a broader voting group, finding that the housing assistants were part of a different department, were required to have different skills and training, and had different job functions. The housing advisors also were distinct from the other students with no overlap in functions, no exchange of job responsibilities, and infrequent contact with the other students in performing their responsibilities. The housing advisors performed their functions in different places than the other “student-employees,” including the fact that the housing advisors were required to live in specific College housing, and were compensated in a completely different manner.
Their election will take place within three weeks of the Regional Director’s decision. The election will determine whether the Student Workers Coalition represents a majority of those voting.