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Legislative Update: What’s at Stake in November

Labor Board Decisions, President’s Policies Affect our Lives in Many Ways

As UAW members know, elections have enormous and long-term consequences. The people we elect to represent us in our hometowns, states, and in Washington impact nearly every facet of our lives, including our ability to pay hospital bills, drink safe water, collectively bargain for better wages, job security and satisfactory working conditions. Every office-holder makes critical decisions that have a lasting impact, but no single person has a greater impact than the president of the United States.

Throughout his time in office, President Obama has supported an array of policies to protect our rights in the workplace and strengthen the middle class. Of course, far right-wing politicians have fought against his agenda at every turn. Despite their opposition, working families have had notable victories that are on the line in November.

For example, recognizing that millions of workers were being exploited by being denied overtime pay, the Obama administration took action by requiring employers to pay overtime to salaried workers who make less than $47,476 annually. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump opposes the new rules and has even called for lowering the minimum wage, whereas Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton strongly supports this long overdue pay raise.

Starting this December, millions will finally be paid for overtime work, including thousands of UAW members who work as post-doctorate employees at our colleges and universities and routinely work far more than 40 hours per week. These highly educated employees work long hours in labs across the country performing highly technical work. Postdocs are essential for each university’s research mission and have helped secure hundreds of patents and obtained grants worth hundreds of millions of dollars to support critical research.

UAW Local 5810 represents over 6,000 postdocs who work throughout the University of California system. In response to the Obama administration’s decision, the local’s president, Anke Schennink, said, “The increase provides much needed relief to workers who’ve been denied protections for decades and marks real progress in our efforts to rebuild the middle class. Right now, many postdoc researchers can’t afford the basics such as rent, transportation, child care, diapers and food.”

In another victory for working people, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently issued a commonsense, 3-1 decision clarifying that academic workers at private colleges and universities, like Columbia University, are employees covered by federal labor law. (Academic workers at Columbia who were trying to join the UAW filed the petition a few years ago after the Bush administration’s NLRB appointees stopped workers from exercising their rights. The president’s party has a majority on the five-person board.)

The recent decision restores collective bargaining rights to hundreds of thousands of graduate students working as teaching and research assistants who play critical roles in our teaching and research programs at private universities. Hillary Clinton is a strong supporter of labor rights and has called for strengthening our labor laws. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has fought unions throughout his career and has embraced an anti-worker platform that would make it more difficult to organize.

UAW President Dennis Williams praised the decision saying, “From coast to coast more than 35,000 teaching assistants and research assistants have already formed their unions with the UAW, and today tens of thousands more have their rights restored to advocate for the issues that matter to them the most. Since the 1980s, the UAW has helped graduate workers and other higher education employees fight for and win respect for their work and the right to a union at public and private universities nationwide.”

It is important to keep in mind that whoever is elected president matters. It was because of President Obama that both of these victories were won and it is up to us to make sure they are not taken away this November.

Source: UAW Legislative Department