What does it mean for a union to be defunct but not decertified?
March 12, 2014 11:37 AM   Subscribe

Acquaintances who are currently graduate employees at the University of Kansas are very worried about an administration proposal to cut the hours GTA's/GRA's can work. From what I am seeing on social media, these acquaintances and the GTA/GRA community are planning on making a lot of noise to the administration and the media with some help from sympathetic faculty and departments. Basically, pleading and threatening. But, KU apparently *has* a collective bargaining unit for graduate students, GTAC, which successfully negotiated a single contract in 2001 before apparently becoming completely marginalized. It seems like the GTA/GRA community are basically unaware that a union ever existed. But, does the GTA/GRA community not still possess the protections of having formed and certified a union? It seems that the last contract expired in 2009, but I can't find anything about GTAC decertifying. Or does decertification happen automagically after some period of non-activity or lapse of contract? I have basic knowledge of labor law and NLRB rules and have done some additional research, but I can't answer these questions for myself or my acquaintances.

I can't imagine working .75 FTE as an instructor while meaningfully pursuing a gradate degree, maybe if the paid work was research relating to my thesis/project. However, it seems that the per-hour rates at KU are low enough that many people need the hours, and it sounds like my friends don't expect the actual workload to decrease with the paid hours. They also seem to think that this proposal is intended, at least partially, to dodge providing coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

My quick internet sleuthing turned up very little beyond the apparently defunct GTAC site and diminishing mention in outside media. GTAC seems to have completely dissolved as a functioning office at some point in 2009; the last meeting minutes on the GTAC site are from August of 2009 and include a note that the contract was about to expire. Prior to that, it looks like the administration played hardball and won. Quick searches indicate that the 4 officers listed on the site matriculated or otherwise moved on in 2009-2010. The last mention I can find of GTAC in outside media is a March 2011 Daily Kansas article.

I pinged their contact email. Given the state of the site, not sure if I will hear back.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... to Law & Government (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Contact what looks to be the parent organization, the Kansas Association of Public Employees --- they'll be able to either put you in contact with GTAC or it's successor.
posted by easily confused at 11:55 AM on March 12, 2014

Response by poster: easily confused; good idea, should have done that in addition to emailing the GTAC contact. Just did so, and in the process discovered that the Kansas AFT site is inactive since early 2013.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 12:08 PM on March 12, 2014

Kansas falls into Region 14 of the NLRB. I can't speak to that region but my local NLRB regional office is very helpful with these kinds of questions; if nothing else, they'll be able to tell you whether the union has ever been decertified.

As you probably know, unions are generally required to file certain annual paperwork with the Department of Labor, and that paperwork is searchable here. I wasn't able to find anything for either GTAC or the Kansas AFT but perhaps you will have better luck.
posted by enn at 12:49 PM on March 12, 2014

Hey! I was a member of GTAC at KU in 2000-2001! My memory is quite fuzzy, but I believe they were also affiliated with another organization/union, I want to say something with service employees...I only remember because it seemed such a weird affiliation. Sorry that's not more helpful. I actually had a t-shirt with all the info on it because it was such a big deal at the time but it's probably lost at this point.

It truly sucks to hear that things have gone down the drain so badly since then.
posted by altopower at 1:55 PM on March 12, 2014

The NLRB is not relevant here because this falls under the state labor board. The relevant government agency is the Kansas Public Employee Relations Board. You can look around that website or call someone there for help. You need to find out what Kansas Law says about expired contracts. Some states say that the old terms are continued until a new contract is negotiated. The Kansas AFT (and KAPE) should be able to help you with this (they'll have a lawyer who knows the answer)- you may also be able to understand the laws yourself.
posted by cushie at 2:46 PM on March 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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