Editorial: If Chadwick is an employee, then so are all graduate workers

The UM System cannot selectively call graduate workers employees only when it is convenient.

The struggle between the UM System and its disgruntled graduate student population has been centered around the system’s refusal to recognize graduate workers as employees. The university has repeatedly stated that graduate workers are not employees and have no legal right to unionize and collectively bargain. But system officials have just conveniently contradicted their own logic regarding graduate student Ginny Chadwick's status as an employee and her ability to run for public office.

Chadwick announced earlier in March that she was going to run for Southern Boone County Commissioner, but later withdrew that announcement after she was informed of a UM System regulation concerning employees and public office. The key word here is employee.

Regulation 350.020 on Labor Union Recognition in the UM System’s Collected Rules and Regulations states that in order to hold any full-time elected office on any level, a staff member must either resign their position or request a leave of absence prior to the filing date. Chadwick previously served on Columbia City Council, which didn’t violate the regulation because it was a part-time position.

This decision comes after system administrators refused to recognize the Coalition of Graduate Workers, the unionization effort of MU’s graduate workers, as well as UM System Vice President for Human Resources Kelley Stuck’s announcement that the UM System would not recognize the employee status of graduate workers without legal action.

The coalition has expressed its desire to collectively organize, but the UM System opposed their organization because the Missouri Constitution is not clear on the employee status of graduate workers. The UM System decided in February to block a union election and require a legal ruling before even considering its graduate student workers as employees.

This convenient recognition of Chadwick as an employee now, but not in regards to the right to collectively bargain, is a perfect example of the UM System’s hypocrisy throughout the struggle for graduate student rights. When it comes to the right to collectively organize and bargain, Chadwick and other graduate workers are not employees. But when it comes to the ability to hold full-time public office, suddenly Chadwick is an employee and will be treated as such.

The UM System cannot have it both ways here. If they refuse to acknowledge that Chadwick and other graduate workers are actually employees, they cannot apply this rule to her. At the very least, they must be consistent with their stance.

All of the income graduate workers receive through teaching and research assistantships is taxable income, and they have the W-2 forms to prove it. Every other type of employment within the public sector has the explicit right to unionize and collectively bargain. Graduate student workers deserve the same.

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