Lawmakers OK graduate research assistant unions

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State Rep. Will Guzzardi is the sponsor of a bill considering whether graduate students who work as research assistants can unionize. | Sun-Times file photo

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Illinois House has sent the governor legislation expanding graduate student unions to include research assistants.

The 66-49 vote Wednesday followed heated discussion on whether research counts as work. State law allows students who work as teaching assistants to unionize but not those who work as research assistants.

Rep. Will Guzzardi is the sponsor. The Chicago Democrat says those who perform academic research are workers and deserve union protections. He adds research assistants often work 40 to 50 hours a week and have no forum to air their grievances.

Republican Rep. Steve Reick of Woodstock is against the measure. He says research isn’t work because students use it to further their own education.

The legislation follows a two week strike from graduate students at the University of Illinois.

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