An update on RA Unionization

Here’s the email that went out to all graduate students at UW-Madison yesterday from ASM. The Herald’s sub-headline is misleading – there is no “group will meet to decide if new union will be formed by secret ballot or authorization cards” – whatever group they’re talking about doesn’t exist.  The only thing that is happening in the short term is the State is setting the rules for how the union formation process will eventually work. (Otherwise, the story was pretty accurate)

(ps to the Herald – why not link to primary sources when writing stories? I know you had a copy of this email! 🙂


Dear fellow graduate students –

We apologize for the length of this email, but we believe it is
important. For a top-level, plain language summary of where ASM
believes RA Unionization is now, please jump to the bottom.


As you may recall, this past summer the State of Wisconsin authorized
some research assistants at UW schools to organize themselves and
bargain collectively, if they so choose. At the beginning of the
school year, ASM shared with you the information it had collected,
with the assistance of the University Administration, the TAA, and the
Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission. At that time, we promised
to update you when there were any new developments.

It has been a quiet fall and winter, but there is some recent news to
share with you. The Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission (WERC),
the state agency that regulates the relationship between employers and
employees, has issued its proposed rules for how an RA union could be
formed. While the broad scope and shape of the rules were defined by
the state legislature, WERC is responsible for filling in the details.

In the proposed regulations, WERC has clarified the use of
authorization cards to create a collective bargaining unit. State law
provides that if a majority of RAs sign authorization cards, no secret
ballot election is necessary and a collective bargaining unit is
automatically formed. WERC’s proposed rules provide that a secret
ballot election is still a permissible process for creating a
collective bargaining unit. The decision of which method to use is
left to the organization trying to become the representatives of the
RAs, and ultimately, to the RAs who are eligible to participate in a
collective bargaining unit.

WERC’s proposed rules have also clarified that they will not accept
any petitions before July 1, 2010. However, authorization cards
collected before that date would be valid, if their rules are adopted

WERC is collecting feedback on their proposed rules. You can read them
online here:

or a brief summary here:

You can provide written feedback by phone, by writing or emailing Peter
Davis at the WERC, or by attending an in-person hearing on Thursday, March
11th, at 10am at the WERC offices. All of the contact information for
Peter Davis, as well as directions to the WERC offices are found in
the rules_hearing_notice above, or at this link:

All feedback to WERC is due March 22nd, 2010.

Please note that the hearing and the written comments are for the
rules only, and not on the overarching issue of should UW-Madison RAs
unionize. That is a discussion for our campus.

WERC expects to have the final version of the rules published and in
place by July 1, 2010.

========= SHORT VERSION =========

ASM has made an effort to describe the process using cautious
language, reflecting all possible outcomes. We recognize that many of
you may prefer a simpler explanation of what is likely to occur.
Please keep in mind that this is just ASM’s best guess for future

ASM does not expect that there will be any effort to collect
authorization cards, or otherwise begin the process to form an RA
Union, until at least the fall semester 2010. ASM believes the TAA is the only
organization that would consider being the offical representatives for
RAs. ASM has not heard of any other group that is interested in coming
to UW-Madison to represent RAs, nor has it heard of any group of
UW-Madison RAs interested in creating a separate “RAA” organization.

ASM does expect that a group of RAs will eventually come together,
under the auspices of the TAA, and begin the process of RA
unionization with the TAA as the representatives. ASM does not know if
they would pursue a secret ballot election or “card-check.” ASM has no
opinion on whether there should be a secret ballot election or

ASM is planning to hold a townhall meeting, discussing RA
Unionization, the Graduate School reorganization, segregated fees, and
the Natatorium renovations. That will be near the end of March, and
we’ll be sending another email announcing the date and location soon.

As always, ASM welcomes your feedback. Please feel free to contact any of us:

Colin Ingram, Chemistry

Erik Paulson, Computer Sciences

Matthew Tobelmann, Chemical Engineering

ps – for more information, please see the ASM RA CBR Info Center:

The UW Administration maintains their own page


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