Graduate students who teach at private universities have the right to unionize, the US National Labor Relations Board has ruled.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, graduate students at Columbia University brought the case, arguing that they merited employee protections, including the right to organize, when working for the school. "What we're fundamentally concerned about isn't really money," Columbia graduate student and organizer Paul Katz tells the New York Times. "It's a question of power and democracy in a space in the academy that's increasingly corporatized, hierarchical. That's what we're most concerned about."
In its ruling, the labor board said graduate students can be considered employees "if they perform and are compensated for work that the university oversees, even if their relationship was substantially broader," the Times adds.
Columbia and other universities had argued that graduate students are students foremost. "Columbia — along with many of our peer institutions — disagrees with this outcome because we believe the academic relationship students have with faculty members and departments as part of their studies is not the same as between employer and employee," the university says in a statement.
The WSJ adds that graduate assistants at a number of universities like Duke, Northwestern, St. Louis, and American are now moving to organize.