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

Timeline of Tug of War for Graduate Student Unions

For over 15 years, graduate assistants have fought for their right to unionize. In the past, graduate students who work as adjunct professors or research assistants were under no legal obligation to be afforded the same rights as their academic colleagues. That is, until Columbia University’s students stepped up to plate in August and petitioned for workers rights. In a vicious cycle of expiration and re-authorization, these contracts between private institutions have rarely lasted. However, these academic employees are now protected under federal labor law as of August of 2016. Just in time for classes.

“…A recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board now requires private universities to bargain with graduate-employee labor unions over compensation and working conditions.”, as quoted from an article on nytimes.com linked below. This now grants them more than just the previous annual stipend. Graduate assistants are now federally protected and are given healthcare, a salary subject to raise, and all other rights available by graduate labor unions.

These petitions have normally come down from private and ivy league institutions, and whether or not it will effect public graduate schools remains to be seen. N.Y.U was the first private university to let their graduate students unionize in 2001, and then it trickled down to other ivy league colleges. After the revocation of this right by the NLRB in 2004, the legal yo-yo bounced back in the favor of graduate students this summer.

Unions Knocking on the Academy’s Doors
Unions in the Ivory Tower
Grad Students Win Right to Unionize in an Ivy League Case
GRAD STUDENT UNION: Ruling from NLRB clears the way