Graduate students who work as research assistants alongside university professors could win the right to go on strike. Current law excludes them from being counted as employees. But a proposal to change that (HB253) was approved by the Illinois House of Representatives last week.
Several Republican state representatives argued giving them that right would raise college costs. State Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) argued the measure could eventually lead to higher tuition prices for undergraduates.
"This has the potential to raise the cost of doing business for these universities, because we're going to have these collective bargaining things, which generally raise costs," he said.
But Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), who is sponsoring the legislation, rejected that argument.
"Whether that then translates to a tuition increase or not, you guys are, it's a very attenuated stream of logic that winds up as this costs more to students," he said.
Graduate students who work as teachers assistants are classified as university employees, and already have the right to join a union.
No college or university has registered any opposition to the bill. A similar measure was approved by the General Assembly last year, but vetoed by then-Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The bill now heads to the Senate.