State labor law now is in the way of KU officials sitting down with graduate teaching assistants over their conditions of employment.
Administrators at Kansas University aren't in a position to sit down with graduate teaching assistants to talk about employment grievances, KU's executive vice chancellor said today.
Ed Meyen, the university's No. 2 official, responded to a request by a student working to unionize GTAs that KU form a task force to study GTA issues.
"While this might be desirable, university officials are currently prohibited by state labor laws from discussing with graduate teaching assistants the terms and conditions of their appointments," he said.
"This is an unfortunate byproduct of the graduate teaching assistants' decision to pursue unionization," he added.
David Reidy, a GTA union organizer, said KU officials should get the jump on a collective bargaining relationship by convening a task force to talk about health benefits, salaries, work requirements and tuition waivers.
Graduate students active in the union effort should be members of a panel, Reidy said.
Meyen said state statutes prohibits KU administrators from offering any inducement to discourage GTAs from exercising their right to hold a union election.
The Kansas Association of Public Employees, which has been working with GTA union activists at KU, filed an unfair labor practice complaint in October against Sen. Gus Bogina, R-Shawnee, for comments attributed to him about GTAs.
The complaint was based on a J-W story that said Bogina threatened to use his influence over the state budget to retaliate against GTAs if they unionized.
"I will fight very hard to limit GTA funding," Bogina said. "As far as I'm concerned, that line item in the budget will not be increased."
Bogina, chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said in a reply to the state Public Employee Relations Board that he didn't make the statement.
In October, PERB granted GTAs "public employee" status. That ruling allows 1,040 GTAs to vote on the union question.