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Non-economic Benefits to Graduate-student Unionization

January 25, 2010

I’ve done quantitative research on graduate-student unionization before. In my research I found unionization has a modest effect on increasing wages and little to no impact on reducing wage inequality for graduate assistants.

However, I wasn’t able to investigate non-pecuniary effects of unionization. For instance, a union may want to specify manger-employ protocol. University of Oregon’s graduate-student union blog posted their examples of non-economic provisions in their labor agreement. They refer to their graduate assistance as graduate teaching fellow (GTF). So here they are:

Article 9 – We proposed that departments have “Specific, objective, and quantifiable” requirements for maintaining satisfactory academic progress, instead of the “general” requirements that the contract now requires.

Article 10: We had proposed language that would make the UO assign GTF help to GTFs who work as instructors of record the same way that GTF help is assigned to other faculty.

Article 17: We proposed that grad students who apply for GTF positions, but don’t get them, would be able to request as statement as to the reasons why they were not hired and their rank in the applicant pool (departments are required to rank all applicants based on their written criteria and give out GTF appointments based on these rankings).

These provisions aren’t a new concept all together–especially Article 9. The main question for someone like me is if the provisions are able to increase productivity. Unfortunately, such data is scarce so no one has been able to explore it, yet.

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