"We think the decision by the NLRB to once again review the issue of graduate assistant unionization is regrettable, and is particularly unwarranted in NYU's case.
"Decades of precedent held that graduate assistants were not employees and not eligible to unionize under federal law. That precedent was overturned in 1999 in a case involving NYU, but then, five years later, the aberrant 1995 ruling was itself reversed and the longstanding rule was restored. Now the matter is once again being reviewed, for the third time in roughly a dozen years
"At NYU, we have always believed these individuals are students, not employees: they are admitted as students because of their academic promise, not hired as employees because of their job skills. But beyond that, in the years since 2004, the facts at NYU changed in ways that make the case for grad student unionization even less cogent: assistantships are no longer part of our graduate students’ financial aid packages – for several years, they have received full fellowship support for five years (including full scholarship, a stipend of more than $23,000, and their health care premiums paid for by NYU – a package worth over $75,000 annually) without assistantship responsibilities, such as teaching or grading. Those who do want to teach are hired as adjunct faculty, and as such are paid over and above their financial aid package and are eligible to be represented by the adjunct faculty collective bargaining unit. This change in facts should certainly have led to a different outcome today.
"The inclusion of research assistants this time around – they were excluded in 1999 at the request of the UAW – is a particularly worrisome development for higher education. What research assistants do is inextricably connected to their personal research and their pursuit of their degrees, and unionization of RAs would raise serious concerns about bringing collective bargaining into the middle of academic decision-making.
"We wish that the Board had paid closer heed to these issues in making today’s decision. Nonetheless, we look forward over the coming months to making our case that the current and long-standing precedent should continue to be upheld."