Who is an employee for organizing purposes? NLRB Orders Hearing on Student–Employees at Columbia University

The NLRB recently said it would consider whether student–employees could petition for a union at Columbia University, showing that the Board is taking steps toward extending collective-bargaining rights to student teaching assistants. 

Relying on Bush Board precedent, the New York Regional Director had dismissed the graduate student assistants’ petitions for a union at Columbia because Brown University, 342 N.L.R.B. No. 42 (2004), held that graduate teaching assistants are more of students than employees and not entitled to collective-bargaining rights.  Now, by reopening Brown University, the Obama Board is signaling a shift toward extending collective-bargaining rights to student–employees.

The Obama Board has shown interest in the student–employee hybrid.  In 2012, the NLRB granted review of Brown University when graduate teaching assistants at New York University sought a union; however, the graduate students there ultimately withdrew their petition for NYU’s recognition of the union.  Currently pending before the Obama Board is the issue of whether student–athletes at private universities have a right to unionize under the NLRA.  These decisions will likely further broaden the understanding of  “employee” under the NLRA

The hearing regarding the Columbia University graduate student assistants is set for March 31.

Our firm will keep you updated on developments for the collective-bargaining rights of student–employees and other news in labor law. 

By Anthony Tucci | March 27, 2015

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