Illinois Rep. Says Grad Student Union Is Disrespectful To Military

May 17, 2018

Credit Rachel Otwell / NPR IllINOIS | 91.9 UIS

Illinois House members will soon consider a measure that clarifies whether graduate research assistants have the right to unionize.  But, Wednesday's Human Services committee hearing took quite a detour. 

State Rep. Jeanne Ives, a Republican from Wheaton, is a proud West Point grad, and not a fan of unions. So when state Rep.Will Guzzardi, a Chicago Democrat, proposed expanding grad student union benefits to include research assistants, Ives was outraged by an anti-military petition on the group’s website, and a verbal firefight ensued.

Guzzardi: “Representative your political disagreements with the positions of this union have not the slightest bearing with either the merits of this legislation or the first amendments rights of employees to collectively bargain." 

Ives: "This has everything to do with this legislation because these are not the people that we should be expanding benefits for.”

Ives' son graduated from the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) program at the University of Illinois and is currently an army ranger stationed in Alaska. She said the "weak-kneed grad assistants" were being disrespectful to her son.

"The union that you’re trying to protect and expand at this point is telling people, their grad assistants, sign this petition and pledge not to work in the military-industrial complex," said Ives. "I could not be more offended."

The measure has already passed the Senate.