The NLRB, Adjuncts and Graduate Assistants
In the last few months, there has been a good bit of information in the news about unionization of adjuncts and graduate assistants. Some articles reported successful union elections by both groups; others detail recent NLRB decisions regarding the eligibility of these groups to unionize.
Grad Students: Graduate student unions are primarily located in public universities (a Graduate Student Organizing Committee, affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW), is the only graduate employee union recognized by a private university in the U.S.). Whereas state labor laws determine collective bargaining and employee recognition in public universities, the NLRB determines whether graduate students are employees at private universities, the recognition of which will give students collective bargaining rights (currently, graduate students in private universities are not considered employees).
Adjuncts: The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is moving hard and fast to add adjuncts to their roster, organizing at private colleges and universities in several urban areas. The United Steelworkers (USW) is having success unionizing adjuncts in Pennsylvania. UAW took on the organization of academic student employees (ASEs) working at American universities as teaching assistants, research assistants, tutors and graders. As of 2011, UAW represents more student workers than any other union in the U.S. In March 2014, the NLRB, applying for the first time its new standards for weighing whether faculty members can unionize, gave the green light to a union election by contingent faculty members at Seattle University, a private religious institution. Two other Roman Catholic institutions, Manhattan College, in Riverdale, NY, Saint Xavier University, in Chicago, were included in the same NLRB consideration.
On Friday, March 13, the NLRB board endorsed union petitions filed by the UAW on behalf of graduate students at Columbia University and the New School. The union bids had previously been rejected on the basis of a 2004 NLRB decision that graduate teaching assistants at Brown University were primarily students and not employees, and thus could not unionize. In fact, the Board has indicated interest in reviewing and possibly overturning the Brown decision.
Resources and Readings:
CUPA-HR webinar - Will Your Faculty Be Unionized? The NLRB Opens the Door
NLRB Says Adjuncts at Seattle University Can Unionize
Bentley Adjuncts Approve Union Bid in Second Round
Adjuncts at Temple University March for Union
Union Rights at Religious Colleges
NLRB Orders Review of Cases Involving Adjunct Unions at Religious Colleges
Adjunct Job Security Through Tenure Track?
Six Ways to Cultivate Labor Peace With Adjunct Faculty
A New Path for Adjuncts
New Guidance From NLRB Could Pave the Way for More Faculty Organizing on College Campuses
More Routes to TA Unions
Gains for Grad Students at NYU