As of Tuesday, graduate students at private colleges and universities will be permitted to unionize, according to BuzzFeed News.
At a hearing in Washington D.C., the National Labor Relations Board ruled that, under federal labor law, graduate students should be considered employees of their universities and therefore must be allowed the right to form a union. This decision reverses the 2004 ruling grad students were to be considered students exclusively, and could not hold status as both a student and an employee at their school, according to the Wall Street Journal.
So what does this mean for college students? It means that TAs and student workers and researchers can now use unions as a platform to bargain with their employers over working conditions. Their new status as official employees will also provide grad students with more legal protection from workplace harassment, according to BuzzFeed.
This decision affects students who work at private schools, BuzzFeed reports. Employees at public universities are already allowed to unionize as they are covered by state law.
Private universities aren't too pleased. Several schools, including Harvard and Stanford, publishing a joint legal brief explaining that collective bargaining in graduate programs could cost schools millions of dollars in increased wages for teachers, and take away their ability to choose which TAs would teach which classes, according to the Wall Street Journal. The situation around classifying grad students as employees is made even more complicated by the fact that grad students don't receive normal wages, as they receive other forms of payment including health care coverage and educational experiences that will help them in their future careers.
Union organizing campaigns for graduate students have been happening all over the country at schools including Harvard, Yale, Northwestern and Columbia, whose huge unionization drive kicked this case into action, according to the Wall Street Journal. Now, the question is whether student athletes will eventually be able to unionize as well.