Loyola University in Chicago will not engage in collective bargaining with graduate assistants who teach or do research, it informed its new graduate student union. That’s despite an earlier statement from the university that it would bargain a contract with the Service Employees International Union-affiliated graduate assistants. Steve Christensen, Loyola spokesperson, said via email that teaching and research assistants are “fundamentally students, and therefore, do not qualify as ‘employees’ within the meaning of the National Labor Relations Act.” He added, “We will continue to give voice to Loyola graduate assistants and take steps to provide them with a rewarding and fulfilling student experience.”
The National Labor Relations Board decided last year that graduate teaching and research assistants on private campuses are in fact employees under the labor act, but other private institutions have said they’ll challenge the decision for the same reasons cited by Loyola. Some campuses have committed to bargaining with students, however. Christensen noted that Loyola recently announced stipend increases, among other changes for assistants, which “reflect our commitment to Jesuit, Catholic values and a fair and just academic environment.” The union said in a separate statement, “Regardless of what the university claims, we are a union and will continue to push for improvements, a contract and a voice in our working conditions. We are prepared to hold Loyola’s administration accountable."