A new development in the Boston College Graduate Employees Union - United Auto Workers (BCGEU-UAW) campaign to establish bargaining rights with the university has taken place. On Feb. 6, the union withdrew its petition and certification with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
By withdrawing the petition, the union made the decision not to invoke the NLRB jurisdiction,which establishes and enforces the right of graduate student employees to negotiate with university administration for better working conditions and benefits.
Additionally, the university administration's appeal to the NLRB regarding the recognition of the union is now moot, as was announced in an update from Vice President for Human Resources David Trainor on Tuesday.
According to an email sent by the BCGEU Organizing Committee to graduate student workers, the petition was withdrawn due to recent decisions made by the NLRB, which has been moving in a different direction under the leadership of new appointees made under the Trump administration.
If the NLRB had ruled with BC on this decision, the BCGEU-UAW would lose its legal right to collectively bargain. Additionally, it would establish the precedent that graduate student workers at private universities do not have the right to unionize. This would overturn the current precedent set by a 2016 NLRB decision involving Columbia University, which decided that graduate student employees at private universities should be allowed to unionize.
“We will not allow Boston College to use an anti-labor NLRB to take away our election and to revoke workers’ rights at religious institutions across the country,” stated the Organizing Committee. “Boston College’s appeal disrespects our democratic vote for unionization and disregards their own Catholic social justice teachings.”
The petition, which was filed last year as part of the union’s efforts to gain official recognition from the university, resulted in an election set by the NLRB in September. The majority of graduate student workers voted in favor of representation by BCGEU-UAW.
Despite the election results, administrators refused to recognize the union or drop their appeal to the NLRB, which had been filed by administrators to delay the election in August.
In a letter sent to the BC community on Jan. 24, Vice President for Human Resources David Trainor affirmed that the university would not be dropping the appeal despite multiple union demonstrations that called them to do so.
According to the letter, the university was justified in appealing that “(1) the Columbia University decision holding that graduate students are employees with rights to unionize was incorrectly decided and (2) the NLRB does not have jurisdiction over this matter because of Boston College’s Catholic and Jesuit identity.”
However, union members argued that the university's position on the graduate student union contradicts the well-established tradition of Catholic social teaching, which supports the right of workers to unionize and bargain collectively.
They also pointed to the examples of Fordham University and Georgetown University, two prominent Jesuit institutions that have respected the right of graduate student employees to unionize.
Although the graduate union has abandoned their attempt to reach the bargaining table through the legal process set by the NLRB, the Organizing Committee affirmed its commitment to advocating for the needs and interests of graduate student employees, stating that they “are not going away.”
Every day in the past week, union members have delivered petitions signed by hundreds of students and community members to the offices of University President Fr. William Leahy and Dean David Quigley. These petitions call for university recognition of the BCGEU-UAW, and each trip is documented with a photo on the union’s Facebook page.
Additionally, union members collected Valentine’s Day cards, with messages such as “Give up union-busting for Lent” that will be delivered to Fr. Leahy on Wednesday.
“Our position here at Boston College does not depend on a petition or any other formal legal procedure,” said the BCGEU Organizing Committee. “We continue to demand that Boston College respect our vote and do what is both morally and democratically correct: bargain with our union.”