SB 259 Would Open Door to Unionizing Student Research Assistants

SB 259 was introduced by Senator Hancock on February 10, 2011.  SB 259 would amend the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) to cover student employees whose employment is contingent upon their status as students, without any other conditions.  Currently, HEERA section 3562(e) defines “employee” to include student employees if the employment is contingent on their status as students and “only if the services they provide are unrelated to their educational objectives, or that those educational objectives are subordinate to the services they perform and that coverage under this chapter would further the purposes of this chapter.”  SB 259 eliminates the latter requirement.

According to the Legislative analysis, the genesis of this bill is PERB’s decision in Regents of the UC & Association of Student Employees, UAW, et al (1998) (PERB Order No. 1301-H) in which PERB held that University of California Teaching Assistants (TAs), Readers, and Tutors had bargaining rights under HEERA, but that Research Assistants (RAs) did not. This bill would grant RAs bargaining rights under HEERA by deleting the statutory language that student employees only have bargaining rights if their employment is unrelated to their educational objectives.

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