NLRB Rules Grad Students Can Unionize

Graduate research and teaching assistants at private universities now have the legal winds at their backs in their drive to negotiate better wages and working conditions for themselves, courtesy of today’s ruling by the National Labor Relations Board in a case brought against Columbia University.

Those researchers and assistants are “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act, the board declared.

In this 3 to 1 ruling, the NLRB overturned a 2004 ruling denying graduate students at Brown University the right to unionize. This should make this right available to graduate students in private universities across the United States.

Past bans on the unionization of graduate students at private universities “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the act without a convincing justification,” the NLRB decision says.

Republicans in Congress were quick to condemn the decision as another what they see as an example of NLRB activism. A statement issued by Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said in part:

Teaching and research programs for graduate students are important learning opportunities that help individuals gain knowledge and skills to succeed in the future. Not only will today’s decision limit these programs, but it will increase college costs and impose new obstacles on hardworking men and women trying to build their careers. We will continue working to push back on the NLRB’s activist agenda and to make it easier—not harder—for more Americans to pursue the dream of higher education.

You can access the NLRB’s ruling here.


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