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ERIC Number: EJ1118588
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Oct-16
Pages: 3
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1938-5978
Friends of the Court? Grad Student Organizing
Ambash, Joseph W.
New England Journal of Higher Education, Oct 2016
The recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in the "Columbia University"case granting students who serve as teaching or research assistants at private universities the right to unionize dealt a major blow to private higher education as we know it. In a long-anticipated decision, the NLRB ruled that any student who performs services for an institution, under its control, for compensation, is a "common-law" employee entitled to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB's sweeping decision lumped together undergraduates (who may serve, for example, as graders and discussion leaders), master's degree candidates and PhD candidates in its definition of employees. The decision ignored the fact that many students must serve as teaching assistants or research assistants as part of their master's or PhD degree requirement, even if they would otherwise not want to do that "job." The decision's lone dissenter, Republican Philip A. Miscamarra, anticipated that the strikes and other economic weapons that often accompany collective bargaining "will wreak havoc" and may have "devastating consequences" for higher education, particularly for the students who are trying to earn their degrees. The U.S. Supreme Court long ago stated that that "the principles developed for use in the industrial setting cannot be 'imposed blindly on the academic world,'" because the interests at stake in the academy are different than those in an industrial workplace. Despite this observation, the NLRB ruled that the industrial model of the National Labor Relations Act is appropriate for private-sector campuses. This stunning will, if unchecked, forever change private universities. Like it or not, applicants will no longer be "admitted" to unionized institutions; they will be new hires, no different in many respects from hourly workers in industry.
New England Board of Higher Education. 45 Temple Place, Boston, MA 02111. Tel: 617-357-9620; Fax: 617-338-1577; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: New York (New York)
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: National Labor Relations Act
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A