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RE: NY Times article on unionizing graduate students
Thanks, Steve, for this article. The NLRB is very wrong, in my view.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Steve Gabosch [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
> Sent: Friday, July 16, 2004 2:51 PM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: NY Times article on unionizing graduate students
> The article below is from NYTimes.com.
> - Steve
> Labor Board Says Graduate Students at Private Universities Have No Right
> July 16, 2004
> By STEVEN GREENHOUSE and KAREN W. ARENSON
> The fast-growing movement to unionize graduate students at
> the nation's private universities suffered a crushing
> setback yesterday when the National Labor Relations Board
> reversed itself and ruled that students who worked as
> research and teaching assistants did not have the right to
> In a case involving Brown University, the labor board ruled
> 3 to 2 that graduate teaching and research assistants were
> essentially students, not workers, and thus should not have
> the right to unionize to negotiate over wages, benefits and
> other conditions of employment.
> The Republican-controlled board reversed a four-year-old
> decision involving New York University, a private
> institution, in which the board, then controlled by
> Democrats, concluded that graduate teaching and research
> assistants should be able to unionize because their
> increased responsibilities had essentially turned them into
> As a result of the 2000 N.Y.U. ruling, students there
> formed the first graduate employees' union at a private
> university in the nation. (Graduate student workers at
> public universities are governed by state labor laws rather
> than federal law, and many states have given them the right
> to unionize.)
> Sheldon E. Steinbach, vice president and general counsel
> for the American Council on Education, a trade group that
> represents universities and other educational institutions,
> called the ruling "magnificent" but said he was not
> surprised by it because of the labor board's changed
> lineup. The N.Y.U. decision was itself a reversal of the
> board's decades-old position that graduate assistants
> should not be able to unionize.
> "The previous decision in the N.Y.U. case overturned over
> 30 years of determinations by the National Labor Relations
> Board on whether graduate students who worked as teaching
> and research assistants were students or employees," Mr.
> Steinbach said. "And it threatened the traditional
> relationship between colleges and their graduate student
> But Edward J. McElroy, the secretary-treasurer of the
> American Federation of Teachers, who is set to be elected
> the union's president today, called the decision
> "These people obviously are workers," Mr. McElroy said. "If
> members of the N.L.R.B. can't recognize a worker when they
> see one, they shouldn't be on a national labor board."
> After the N.Y.U. decision, graduate teaching and research
> assistants at Brown, Columbia, Tufts and the University of
> Pennsylvania voted on whether they should unionize, but
> those universities appealed to the National Labor Relations
> Board. The votes were not counted while the cases were
> One of the board's five seats was vacant until last
> December, so it was effectively split and it postponed
> ruling on many issues, including this one. That left the
> unionization efforts in limbo.
> Lauren Nauta, a graduate teaching assistant in history at
> the University of Pennsylvania, said many of her colleagues
> were fuming about the ruling. "We think it's an injustice
> that graduate employees at private universities have been
> denied the same right as those at public universities,''
> she said. "This ruling shows the partisan nature of the
> It is unclear what yesterday's ruling will mean for the
> future of the graduate employees' union at N.Y.U., which
> now has a contract with the university. Once the current
> contract expires, labor experts said, the school may no
> longer be required to recognize the union or bargain with
> N.Y.U. officials said yesterday that they were "gratified"
> by the labor board's decision, but declined to say whether
> they would continue to live with their graduate student
> union or end the relationship when the union contract
> expires next year.
> The contract that N.Y.U. reached with the union
> representing its graduate student assistants in 2002 raised
> stipends for many of them by nearly 40 percent, provided
> health care benefits and paid them extra if they worked
> more than 20 hours a week.
> In its decision, the labor board rejected a petition by the
> United Automobile Workers to represent 450 graduate
> students at Brown who served as teaching and research
> The board noted that graduate students spend most of their
> energy and hours on their studies, rather than their work.
> Stating that the National Labor Relations Act was "designed
> to cover economic relationships," the majority concluded:
> "The Board's longstanding rule that it will not assert
> jurisdiction over relationships that are 'primarily
> educational' is consistent with these principles."
> In conclusion, the board stated that "there is a
> significant risk, even a strong likelihood, that the
> collective-bargaining process will be detrimental to the
> educational process."
> Philip Wheeler, the U.A.W.'s director for New York and New
> England, derided the labor board's logic.
> "I understand that they say it would be too disruptive to
> the great American education system," Mr. Wheeler said.
> "Once upon a time, they said that unionizing would be too
> disruptive for American manufacturing. They were wrong
> then, and they are wrong now."