State agency says university did not provide valid response to petition
The University of California’s long-awaited response to graduate student researchers’ unionization drive, Student Researchers United, was rebuked by California’s Public Employee Relations Board late Wednesday.
“As someone whom UC said did not qualify as an employee and therefore should be excluded from the union, I am glad that PERB took the time to point out UC’s attempt to sidestep the law,” Elizabeth McCarthy, student researcher at UCSF, said in a news release. “I work long hours performing cutting-edge research in labs at UCSF, and I make meaningful contributions to UC’s mission.
“I am an employee, and I look forward to bargaining a first contract with the university that improves my working conditions.”
UC sought to exclude fellows and trainees from the proposed union, hiring Sandra McDonough, partner at Paul, Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton LLP, to send the letter of response Sept. 2.
PERB has two formats of response to unionization petitions: accept or deny with reason for denial.
“The University was required to either recognize the petitioned-for unit, or deny recognition based on the reasons enumerated under PERB Regulation 51080(d)(3),” PERB wrote. “Because the University failed to recognize the petitioned-for unit, PERB must treat the University’s September 2, 2021, response as a denial of recognition pursuant to PERB Regulation 51080(d).”
Paul, Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton LLP labels itself “one of California’s top management-side labor and employment law firms.”
The firm’s website recently lauded “union avoidance” but has since changed wording.
In emails with a UC spokesperson prior to Sept. 2, the university did not verify that it was working with the firm.
The next step available to Student Researchers United is to petition for a PERB investigation, which must be filed within 90 days of the university’s response.
The researchers first filed for recognition May 24, and the unit spans all UC campuses and 17,000 student researchers.
PERB verified that the drive represented a majority of student researchers on Aug. 4, starting a 15-day countdown to a response. UC asked for an extension.
Student Researchers United protested across campuses Aug. 25. Students at UCSB marched from the physical sciences building to Cheadle Hall shouting for recognition.