The Teaching Assistants' Association denounced a prospective bill that would eliminate collective bargaining for graduate employees in the University of Wisconsin System Wednesday.

Though he has not made a formal move, state Sen. Tom Reynolds, R-West Allis, has shown intent to introduce the bill, which the TAA has said would be detrimental to all students in the UW System.

"This would only hurt undergraduates," said TAA Co-President Samaa Abdurraqib in a release. "The high quality of undergraduate education at UW, especially that of freshmen and sophomores, is the direct result of a dedicated and highly skilled group of graduate employees."

TAA Chair of Publicity and Media Relations Melissa Thompson said without collective-bargaining rights, individual graduate employees of the system would have to negotiate their contracts individually.

"Collective bargaining is a basic right for a worker," Thompson said. "It is one of those things that protects workers from potential unfair labor practices."

The TAA and state negotiators have not yet reached agreement on the 2003-05 contract. The TAA union held a strike in April 2004 protesting the state's policy on employee health care.

Thompson said an advantage of working at UW has been the presence of collective bargaining. Without it, she said, prospective graduate employees may take positions at other universities that allow it.

"If this were to pass, we would not be able to attract people that are really skilled," Thompson said. "And undergrads would miss out because they would not be taught by these really skilled people."

Thompson said the bill is not likely to hinder relations between the state and the TAA, citing efforts both have made to advance negotiations. "We are hoping this bill doesn't get too much attention," Thompson said.

The American Federation of Teachers has also decried Reynolds' bill, saying it will harm the UW System as a whole.

"Many of the people represented in these locals are single parents or are living below the poverty line," AFT-Wisconsin president Bob Beglinger said in a release. "Sen. Reynolds' proposal is hurtful to the people dedicated to bettering their lives and the lives of their students through education."

Cathy Rought, a public-relations representative for AFT, said the bill goes against efforts other state senators have made to promote collective bargaining.

"It flies in the face of what a lot of the other senate majority leaders have proposed in support of collective bargaining," Rought said.

Reynolds was not available for comment.

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