As many of you may have heard and as we discussed in our August E-Update, last week in The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, the National Labor Relations Board reversed a twelve-year precedent in holding that student teaching and research assistants at private universities are statutory employees under the National Labor Relations Act and can therefore unionize.
There has been a flurry of employee-friendly decisions issued by the Labor Board in recent weeks to coincide with – not surprisingly – the conclusion of Member Hirozawa’s three-year term on August 27, 2016. This case, however, irks me more than most. The Majority stated that preventing graduate assistants the right to unionize “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the [NLRA] without a convincing jurisdiction” because, according to the Majority, “even when such an economic component may seem comparatively slight, relative to other aspects of the relationship between worker and employer, the payment of compensation, in conjunction with the employer’s control, suffices to establish an employment relationship for purposes of the Act.” And yet, in 2004, the Labor Board reached a contrary conclusion – that graduate assistants are not statutory employees who have the right to unionize, because the Labor Board acknowledged that graduate assistants have a primarily academic, not economic, relationship with their universities. So what’s changed? That is a rhetorical question. Obviously, nothing has changed, but the make-up of the Labor Board and its current desire to expand the reach of the Act.
Continue Reading The NLRB Changes Its Mind Again