Student Teachers and Research Assistants Win Right to Organize at US Private Universities

Russia Patient with America to a Fault
August 24, 2016
Sanders’ Dubious Our Revolution Initiative
August 24, 2016
Student Teachers and Research Assistants Win Right to Organize at US Private Universities
by Stephen Lendman
They’re workers like all others, their profession teaching and related activities. On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB – a shadow of its New Deal origination under the 1935 Wagner Act) ruled on a case Columbia graduate students initiated.
They’ll now have collective bargaining rights like other workers. The decision extends beyond graduate students to the doctoral level. Undergraduate teaching and research assistants are included.
They’ll be able to bargain collectively for all rights they consider important. Administrators at my alma mater opposed unionization. Harvard University president Drew Faust said it would change the student/faculty relationship to an employer/worker one.
Last February, Harvard and other universities filed a joint amicus brief to the NLRB, arguing against collective bargaining rights – wanting management alone to have them.
Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Science spokeswoman Anna Cowenhoven likely spoke for others, saying “the relationship between students and the university is primarily about education…”
True enough. She absurdly and arrogantly added that “unionization will disrupt academic programs and freedoms, mentoring and research at Harvard.” 
How she didn’t explain. Fundamental collective bargaining rights don’t disrupt the academic environment or conflict with it in any way. They give new meaning to academic freedom Harvard and most other Western colleges and universities claim to support.
Columbia grad student Paul Katz involved in the organizing effort said “(w)hat we’re fundamentally concerned about isn’t the money. It’s a question of power and democracy in (academia) that’s increasingly corporatized (and) hierarchical.”
Majority NLRB members overturned a 2004 board decision involving Brown University student assistants – ruling they couldn’t be considered employees because they “are primarily students and have a primarily educational, not economic, relationship with their university.”
One doesn’t conflict with the other. Fundamental rights matter  under all relationships between management and members of businesses and organizations, including academic ones.
Grad students at various public universities won the right to organize under state laws. It should be universal for all types of workers – blue and white collar ones in all lines of work.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Visit his blog site at
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network
Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman
Stephen Lendman was born in 1934 in Boston, MA. In 1956, he received a BA from Harvard University. Two years of US Army service followed, then an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1960. After working seven years as a marketing research analyst, he joined the Lendman Group family business in 1967. He remained there until retiring at year end 1999. Writing on major world and national issues began in summer 2005. In early 2007, radio hosting followed. Lendman now hosts the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network three times weekly. Distinguished guests are featured. Listen live or archived. Major world and national issues are discussed. Lendman is a 2008 Project Censored winner and 2011 Mexican Journalists Club international journalism award recipient.