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College Teaching Assistants Gain Right to Organize

Since 2004 teaching assistants employed by colleges and universities were denied the right to organize and belong to unions by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB is supposed to protect the right of employees to join, or refrain, from joining unions. How is it possible that the Board created by Congress to protect the right of working people to join unions disallowed almost 400,000 teaching assistants that right? Simple. It was a Republican Board. George Bush was President.

Now, this Democratic Board has done what the law requires. Colleges no longer are islands where some employees are singled out for denial of the right to belong to a union.

Why should union folks think this is important? Union members want unions to be strong so they can protect them. The strength of unions in collective bargaining is enhanced by the strength of the labor movement in society. A strong labor movement creates a climate in which worker demands expressed by their union get a hearing. And there is more to protecting worker rights than collective bargaining. Walter Reuther once famously said "There is a direct relationship between the ballot box, and what the union fights for and wins at the bargaining table can be taken away in the legislative halls." Adding these new workers to the labor movement means an enhanced opportunity to win on Election Day.

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