[Marxism] Stony Brook research assistants vote to unionize]

Ron J rjacobs3625 at charter.net
Mon Dec 8 06:05:14 MST 2008

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Stony Brook research assistants vote to unionize


andrew.strickler at newsday.com

December 7, 2008

Research assistants at Stony Brook University have voted to unionize 
after a nine-month campaign that organizers called the largest union 
drive on Long Island in recent memory.

In a vote of 214-135 tallied Friday evening, the research assistants - 
all doctoral students - decided to join Local 1104 of the Communications 
Workers of America. There are about 745 research assistants at Stony 
Brook, organizers said.

The union already represents the university's teaching and graduate 

Organizers of the effort said they hope the union will help them 
negotiate waivers of transportation and technology fees that total about 
$500 each semester, fees that are waived partially or in full for 
graduate and teaching assistants.

"It doesn't sound like a big deal, but for a lot of RAs making $20,000 a 
year, $1,000 is a lot," said Matt Engle, 26, a biology research 
assistant and a student organizer. Engle said he and other assistants 
also hope to gain improved health benefits and to negotiate a pay increase.

"Basically, there has never been a negotiated raise for RAs ever," he said.

Calls to the SUNY Research Foundation, which employs the RAs, were not 
returned yesterday. The foundation has argued that a union would create 
hiring delays and could discourage sponsors of research projects.

Mark Sokolowski, 33, a research assistant in the School of Marine and 
Atmospheric Sciences, said many international students who are RAs 
supported the effort in the hope that a union would help protect their 
rights to be away from work between semesters, when many visit distant 

Sokolowski, who worked to gather union support, said he believes much of 
the resistance from "no" voters was based on the belief that the union 
would push for a single wage for assistants, potentially driving down 
salaries for higher-paid positions.

"We would like to see that people get paid a minimum ... but I would 
encourage any RA to vote no on a contract that doesn't see their 
position improve," he said.

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