NLRB Decision May Boost Graduate Employee Organizing

Share This


On Oct. 25, the National Labor Relations Board took an action that suggests a rebalancing of the labor rights scale, knocked askew during the eight years of Bush administration rule. The board reversed a decision by a regional director not to consider a petition from the NYU Graduate Student Organizing Committee/United Auto Workers, which was seeking a vote on union representation for graduate teaching and research assistants at New York University.

The board overruled the director, saying that, without holding a hearing on the petition, it was not possible to judge the accuracy of representations made by the union and the university. More significantly for the graduate employees seeking to organize at private universities around the country, the board found "compelling reasons" to reconsider a 2004 board precedent holding that graduate students at Brown University were not employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

"The NLRB's decision in the Brown University case, finding that graduate teaching fellows are students and not employees, was a ruling that did not reflect the reality of the university workplace," states David Strom, AFT's general counsel. "The NLRB's direction here to the parties to develop a full record on the duties and responsibilities of graduate teaching fellows gives the board the opportunity to get it right and correct the obvious flaws in the Brown University decision."

The case is now returned to the regional NLRB director who is charged with holding a full hearing and issuing a new decision based on the evidence. [Barbara McKenna, Craig Smith]

October 29, 2010