Ruling clears the way for grad student unionization

Dive Brief:

  • Graduate students at private institutions can now form unions, according to a 3-1 decision from the National Labor Relations Board, which redefines working and educational relationships between students and institutions. 
  • The United Auto Workers, who petitioned for representation on behalf of graduate assistants at Columbia University, successfully argued that a working relationship with an institution or professor would have no bearing on the academic relationship between student and professor. Critics say the ruling opens the door to unnecessary litigation over workloads and academic freedom.
  • Columbia will have the opportunity to appeal the decision, which will likely draw support from all other Ivy League institutions. 

Dive Insight:

The standard of caution for college professors increases with the latest decision for private institutions. University leaders will now have to consider the prospects of benefits, increased wages and extended human resources to meet the needs of a new and large percentage of the campus workforce. And with new financial realities for healthcare, new precedents in benefits for adjunct professors and federal rules on overtime pay for working students, stakes are much higher for potential negotiations with graduate assistants. 

Additionally, professors will have to create more transparency with graduate assistants to establish mutual agreements about teaching and grading workloads, and the balance with academic assignments. 

Filed Under: Higher Ed Legal / Courts
Top image credit: Flickr; Shinya Suzuki