The University of Iowa must negotiate with its graduate student employee union over the reimbursement of student fees, according to a state court. The Iowa District Court for Polk County upheld an earlier Public Employee Relations Board finding that the university must bargain with graduate teaching and research assistants over the reimbursement of such fees, which equal several hundred dollars or more annually, depending on one’s program.
The Board of Regents for the State of Iowa had sought to overturn the board’s ruling, arguing that student fees should be exempt from mandatory bargaining as they pertain to union members’ student — not employee — status. But Judge Karen A. Romano ruled late last week that student fee reimbursements were supplemental pay, and therefore a mandatory bargaining topic in Iowa. Moreover, Romano wrote in her decision, supplemental pay is “triggered” by union members' status as employees, not students. Ruth Bryant, a master's of fine arts student and a spokeswoman for the Campaign to Organize Graduate Students (COGS), which is affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, said the ruling “validates and strengthens” the union’s fight.
Tom Moore, a spokesman for the university, said the Board of Regents was “evaluating the decision and considering its options.”
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