RA unionization vote abruptly canceled

Resident advisors received an email Tuesday evening that the vote on unionizing, scheduled for Wednesday, May 3, was canceled by Services Employees International Union Local 500.

The statement about the vote came from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which ruled on April 21 that GW RAs have the right to collective bargaining if they so choose.

The document below was emailed to the RAs Tuesday night. The "petitioner" refers to the Service Employees International Union Local 500, which is the SEIU branch that covers Maryland and D.C. In total, SEIU has over 2 million members nationally.

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Anne McLeer, director of higher education for SEIU 500, told The Rival that withdrawing the petition means they cannot file again for six months.

The GW RA Support Network, described as, "An organization of [GWU RAs] & partners committed to supporting and educating RAs in their contract negotiation," issued the following statement on Facebook:

The GW RA Support Network also shared a post appearing to be from McLeer.

The Rival reached out to McLeer, who further elaborated on the decision.

It was our professional assessment (having run many union organizing campaigns, including many in higher education) that having an election would not have been either in the RAs’ interests or those of SEIU Local 500 and its members... Affecting our decision was the abbreviated time we had to reach out to RAs following the NLRB’s decision and the end of the school year.

The withdrawal of our petition means that we would have to wait six months before filing another petition for these workers. We will assess the situation following the summer.

Candace Smith, assistant vice president for GW Media Relations, directed The Rival to GW's press release:

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This decision came right after people on both sides were preparing for the vote.

In the days leading up to the election, the RA Organizing Committee (made up of former and current RAs) hosted information sessions with representatives from SEIU Local 500. These were for current and future RAs to learn more about the potential union.

In the interest of preserving the integrity and sensitive nature of these information sessions, no specifics will be mentioned. Additionally, a former RA from University of Massachusetts: Amherst, Annie Mombourquette, was available for commentary over the phone; Amherst was the first school to form a student bargaining unit.

In opposition to the union, a group formed last Wednesday called GW Students for RA Freedom. Austin Hansen, a current RA and leadership member of GW for RA Freedom, gave the following statement:

“While I disagree with the principle of unionization in this scenario, I have tremendous respect the individuals behind the unionization effort and their pursuit to improve the Resident Advisor (RA) position at GW. There are definitely valid concerns that need to be addressed moving forward. That said, I maintain confidence in our employer’s ability to continue to work with RAs in addressing these concerns. I am so incredibly grateful to all the individuals who assisted in our ‘GW Students for RA Freedom’ campaign against unionization despite being such short notice and amidst finals. May we all continue to work together and ‘raise high’ today, and always.”

It should be noted that not all RAs are associated with any of these groups, regardless of their views on the union.

As made clear by its reporting, The Rival will not take a stance on the union. We will continue to bring you the most accurate coverage as the process unfolds.

Originally published by Courtney Buble on gw.therival.news on 5.4.17.

CampusBrandon Bish