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Gerrymandering Graduate Students Under the Obama NLRB

Another day, another union reveals one of its worst-kept secrets. 

Earlier this week, we highlighted how one union has admitted what is obvious to most honest observers: The administration’s new blacklisting regulations aren’t really about “fair pay and safe workplaces,” but instead about increasing union leverage against employers. And that’s not the only thing unions are admitting these days. 

Another union has come clean on the real reason behind the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) “micro-union” scheme. Hint: It’s not meant to support working families. Instead, it’s designed to help unions divide and conquer America’s workplaces (and now our colleges and universities, too). Just ask Local 33—UNITE HERE. 

While cheering a partisan board decision that gives unions the freedom to organize graduate students—that’s right, graduate students—the union described the tactics it intends to use on college campuses. And those tactics are rooted in a 2011 board decision that empowers union leaders to organize multiple micro-unions in a single workplace. Here is what they had to say:

Graduate teachers at Yale are charting new ground in the academy by seeking NLRB elections department by department—a legal strategy developed in consultation with the UNITE HERE General Counsel’s Office.

“The members of Local 33 are following in the footsteps of hotel workers in our International Union who have taken advantage of the NLRB’s recent decision to permit union elections in ‘microunits,’” said Kristin Martin, legal counsel to UNITE HERE, “by starting with a set of departments where the desire to form a union is overwhelmingly clear, we hope to avoid the unnecessary legal gamesmanship that typifies NLRB elections.”

Local 33–UNITE HERE’s department-by-department approach is based on the NLRB’s 2011 decision in Specialty Healthcare, in which the NLRB announced that, upon request from a union, it would order representation elections in the smallest appropriate unit, even if a larger unit would also be appropriate.

This type of manipulation is precisely what committee Republicans have warned about for years. In fact, committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) once said that “the new standard empowers union leaders to manipulate workplaces for their own gain, with dramatic consequences in the real world.”

Real world consequences indeed. Colleges and universities will soon be forced to spend time and resources negotiating with multiple unions on a department-by-department basis as union leaders gerrymander students into whatever little unions are most advantageous. 

The result? Higher college costs and fewer opportunities for hardworking men and women trying to earn a quality education and build their careers. We said it before and we’ll say it again—if only the Obama administration were as honest as its friends in Big Labor.

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