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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Research Assistants Unite and Form Union

    In a rally to announce their formation of a union, over 200 Stony Brook University research assistants joined together Monday at the Student Activities Center Auditorium to sign a mission statement in support of joining Local 1104 the local chapter of the Communications Workers of America. Research assistants aid professors in research projects throughout the campus. ‘Our goal is to give RA’s at Stony Brook a voice,’ according to sbraunion.org, a Web site created for this cause. ‘We are interested in increasing RA benefits such as health insurance and cost-of-living allocations, as well as lowering mandatory fees and establishing a system of grievances’ discuss workplace issues and employment. ‘We are here today to send a message to the Research Foundation and John O’Connor, its President, to remain neutral and respect our right to choose whether or not we want a union, free from coercion or intimidation,’ said Xiao Xu, a research assistant studying cures for leukemia. Some students pay about $500 each semester in fees that include technology and transportation, according to a Newsday article. These fees are waived partially or even entirely for graduate and teaching assistants. The research assistants are targeting the Research Foundation of the State University of New York located in Albany, who the union claims is ‘anti-union.’ According to the research foundation, the assistants already receive pay and benefits comparable or better than their unionized state counterparts without having to join a union and pay dues or agency fees. The research foundation believes forming a union will not help. ‘The RF believes that having a unionized workforce in a sponsored programs environment like ours would not be beneficial or appropriate for students, employees or researchers,’ said Cathy Kaszluga, vice president for corporate communications for the Albany research foundation. According to Kaszluga, ‘We are pro-employee, not anti-union.’ The foundation believes injecting a third party, such as a union, could create delays in hiring and could endanger assignments if sponsors decide to work with non-unionized employers at other universities. The union has been forming underground for the past six months according to one union representative. Currently, about 600 of the 800 research assistants working at Stony Brook University have already signed on with the union. The research assistants hope to join the Communications Workers for America Local 1104. This union already represents over 4,000 teaching assistants at SUNY. ‘It was the right to organize that gave rise to our middle class and it is no coincidence that this right is being continuous challenged at a time when our middle class is under siege, said State Senator Craig M. Johnson (D-Nassau). ‘I strongly support CWA 1104’s efforts to empower these Research Assistants and strongly urge the SUNY Research Foundation to do so as well.’

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