From the AHA Activities column in the September 2000 Perspectives
AHA Statement in Support of Labor Rights in Graduate Education
AHA Staff, September 2000
TFGE's Note: At the January 2000 annual meeting, the Graduate Student Forum provided graduate students with the opportunity to voice their concerns to their representatives on the AHA's Task Force on Graduate Education and on the AHA Council. Key among the concerns discussed was the struggle of graduate students for better working conditions and wages in their role as teaching assistants at their universities. In this regard, many graduate students seemed unaware of the AHA's track record of consistent support for graduate students' right to organize and negotiate on their own behalf. This has been the case since 1996 when the AHA Council voted to affirm these rights during the labor dispute at Yale University. Given the National Labor Relations Board's ruling (in April) in favor of graduate assistants' right to form a union at New York University, the Task Force on Graduate Education has decided to print an abridged version of the 1996 AHA Council resolution as a demonstration of support to graduate students engaged in the labor struggle at NYU and elsewhere.
The AHA affirms its commitment to the principle that all academic teaching staff, including graduate student teaching assistants, have the right to organize and to bargain collectively. The AHA also affirms its commitment to the principle of respect for academic freedom and civil liberties that are vital to the free exchange of ideas. Reprisals, or threats of reprisals, against teaching staff engaged in efforts to organize and to bargain collectively, violate commonly accepted norms of professional conduct. No evaluation of an individual's teaching or scholarship should be affected by his or her efforts to organize and bargain collectively.
The AHA Council has directed the Association's Professional Division, which has responsibility for matters related to professional standards and ethics, to consider the professional issues raised by labor disputes in academic settings, particularly in cases where graduate students are engaged in efforts to secure collective bargaining rights. Furthermore, the AHA Council encourages any historians, including history graduate students, who may be the victims of conduct that violates the AHA's Statement of Standards on Professional Conduct to bring the matter to the attention of the AHA Professional Division.