Graduate students at private colleges can
unionize: U.S. labor board
Send a link to a friend
[August 24, 2016]
By Robert Iafolla
(Reuters) - Columbia University graduate
students who work as research and teaching assistants can form a union,
the U.S. labor board ruled on Tuesday, opening the gates for graduate
student organizing on private campuses all over the country.
In a 3-1 vote, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said that
graduate students working as academic assistants are employees who get
organizing rights under federal labor law.
The NLRB's decision allows Columbia University research and teaching
assistants to vote on whether they want to join a United Auto Workers
The decision only applies to private colleges. Organizing rights for
graduate students at public colleges depend on each state's labor laws.
Graduate students have formed unions in more than a dozen states.
Columbia University disagrees with the decision, university spokeswoman
Caroline Adelman said in a statement.
"First and foremost, students serving as research or teaching assistants
come to Columbia to gain knowledge and expertise, and we believe there
are legitimate concerns about the impact of involving a non-academic
third-party in this scholarly training," Adelman said.
UAW official Julie Kushner praised the decision during a press call,
saying that it marks an "historic day" for graduate students.
Columbia University graduate students are ready to vote to unionize as
early as this fall, after the NLRB regional director in New York
determines who is eligible to participate in the election, Kushner said.
[to top of second column]
Kushner said the UAW is working with graduate students at Harvard
University and the New School. Graduate students at the New School
already have a petition for a union election pending at the NLRB.
Graduate students at private colleges such as Duke University,
Northwestern University, St. Louis University and American
University have also taken steps towards unionizing, the Service
Employees International Union said in a statement.
With Tuesday’s decision, the NLRB overturned its own ruling from
2004 that had barred graduate student unionization. It is the second
time the NLRB has said graduate students can unionize.
The NLRB first found that graduate students at New York University
could form a union in 2000, when the board was controlled by
Partisan control of the board flipped after the 2000 election of
Republican President George W. Bush, clearing the way for the 2004
decision that graduate students could not unionize.
The NLRB has been controlled by Democratic members since the 2008
election of President Barack Obama.
(Reporting by Robert Iafolla; Editing by Alistair Bell and Alan
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.