Columbia grad students win battle to unionize

Some time ago, an article titled Timeline of Tug of War for Graduate Student Unions was posted. This past Friday, the rope was pulled a littler harder in the students direction. Graduate students at Columbia University voted 1,602 to 623 in favor of the move to form a union. This union applies to graduate students who work as teachers or research assistants. Their right to be considered employees has been federally protected since late August, and this development now gives their bark a bit more bite. The United Automobile Workers will be representing close to 4,000 of Columbia’s students. This is in response to a petition signed by the private university’s students last summer and ends the back-and-forth history of graduate student unions. Columbia University has been spearheading this fight since August of this year, when their petition helped overturn a 2004 decision by the National Labor Relations Board stating that graduate students could not be granted the power to unionize. “The ruling held that the assistants could not be considered employees because they “are primarily students and have a primarily educational, not economic, relationship with their university.”, in an article posted on nytimes.com the week after the ruling was officially overturned. The United Automobile Workers will also be representing close to 1,3000 of N.Y.U. graduate students, who accepted their students vote to unionize in 2013. N.Y.U. students move to join the U.A.W comes just three days after Columbia students won their vote. Aside from these two private schools, the U.A.W. represents roughly 30,000 public university research assistants and teachers throughout certain states. The caveat is that it is public, not private, institutions that can choose to let their student workers unionize. Graduate students who work for their private university are now privilege to all the rights afforded by a union! There is no word yet as to when the contract negotiations will start, but the fact that they are starting is what private institutions have been pushing toward for 12 years. Congratulations, Columbia!

Please see the links below for more information.

Columbia Graduate Students Vote Overwhelmingly to Unionize

N.Y.U. Graduate Assistants to Join Auto Workers’ Union

Grad Students Win Right to Unionize in an Ivy League Case

TWU Local 100 sparks changes after recent MTA death

This past November, one MTA track worker was killed after being hit by a subway train and another was seriously injured. Subway train service was up and running while the two men, Jeffrey Fleming and the late Louis Gray Jr., were putting up yellow warning lights-the lights that were supposed to help avoid this same tragic situation. In a deal established earlier this month between the MTA and the TWU Local 100 union, the MTA has agreed to halt all subway activity whenever workers are setting up warning lights prior to construction projects in areas that are deemed particularly dangerous. Another condition to the deal is outlined in an article on TheChiefLeader.com-“According to the agreement signed by the MTA and the union, there has to be a look-out whose only task is to maintain visual and audible communications with the flagging crew, which must be at least 50 feet away from the look-out.” The new legal regulations were signed December 2nd to protect flaggers and track workers from putting their lives at risk.  “This is a big win for the safety of New York City transit workers,” Local 100 President John Samuelsen said. “Past efforts to get the company to even slow the trains down were extremely difficult. Now, the trains must not only slow down but completely suspend service and this is unprecedented.”, as quoted from TWULocal100.com. The website also states that the National Transportation Safety Board not only approved of the regulations, but that there was a “24 hour safety stand down” on Wednesday, the 7th, to inform the workers of the new regulations. All non-emergency track work was stopped while the stand-down took place.