In fight for increased benefits, Columbia grad students find allies in auto workers
- Columbia University teaching assistants and resident advisers made history last week, as more than 1,600 students voted to unionize with membership in the United Auto Workers union.
- The unionization follows similar efforts at New York University, whose graduate assistants applied for membership after the National Labor Relations Board ruled in August that private schools were mandated to compensate student workers as regular employees.
- Schools like Harvard University and Stanford University vehemently oppose the efforts, which are likely to increase costs for salary and benefits by millions.
With this victory, and in addition to the growing concern about new overtime rules for staff members, colleges and universities are likely to see labor budgets explode in the next year or so with unexpected costs. But it could also mean new trends from institutions to automate or to subcontract their workforce in order to save money on personnel spending.
Unless universities figure out how to reduce these costs before they become a matter of adding to burdensome tuition prices, the short-term result may be increased class sizes, reductions in courses in majors with low popularity, and more investments in automated services to replace student workers in other areas.