University to Participate in National Labor Relations Board Hearing

GW opposes petition from Service Employees International Union Local 500 to unionize resident advisors.

December 05, 2016

The George Washington University last week received a notice from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500 has petitioned to represent the university’s 109 undergraduate resident advisors. 

The university will oppose the petition at an NLRB hearing to be held on Wednesday.

“Although we have had a strong relationship with SEIU Local 500 and appreciate the peer to peer mentoring that is the crux of our residential life program, having our undergraduates who are temporarily participating in an undergraduate program that is part of their education experience represented by a collective bargaining agreement could be problematic,” explained Provost Forrest Maltzman.

“The union’s involvement could impact the confidentiality of sensitive education records of the resident advisors and the student residents they interact with on a daily basis,” Dr. Maltzman elaborated.

As part of the organizing effort, SEIU Local 500 subpoenaed a broad array of education records of students, much of which would normally be protected from disclosure under federal privacy laws. While the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) does generally require the university to turn over records subject to a subpoena, the university has raised an objection with the union and the National Labor Relations Board regarding the subpoena in order to protect the privacy interests of our students.

Resident advisors are appointed for one academic year and must be enrolled full time in a GW degree-granting undergraduate program and maintain good academic standing. Resident advisors receive free university housing as well as a stipend of $2,500 in return for their participation.        

In a letter to resident advisors, Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski shared what the university believes are “some of the important implications for the resident advisor program.”   

“Entering into a collective bargaining arrangement would insert a third party into your relationships with your residents, the resident directors and other staff within the Division of Student Affairs,” wrote Dr. Konwerski. “Union representation could fundamentally alter the relationship of resident advisors to their residents. Rules of the road could become governed by collective bargaining rather than individual judgment and could restrict your autonomy and choices about how you interact with your residents.” 

Dr. Konwerski also noted that the direct access resident advisors have currently to their supervisors and other student affairs staff could be affected and that resident advisors could lose the ability to independently suggest ideas and changes as needs arise “as the union, not the resident advisors, would become the exclusive bargaining representative.”

In addition, he said, the ability to introduce timely training could be limited, affecting the ability of resident advisors to respond to timely needs among their residents, and resident advisors could incur additional costs in the form of union dues or fees.

Dr. Konwerski stressed that the university is committed to its resident advisors. 

“The university appreciates everything you do to foster community among your residents thus making the entire university better,” he said in the letter to resident advisors. “I encourage you to become as informed as possible and to actively participate in the NLRB process.”


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