A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board has rejected a bid by the United Auto Workers for the right to hold an election to unionize graduate research and teaching assistants at New York University's Polytechnic Institute. The ruling cited past findings by the NLRB that graduate student workers at private universities should generally be considered to be students, not employees. However, the ruling also noted that there are ways that the graduate students at NYU-Poly interact with the university as students, and that there are other ways that represent more of an economic relationship. With regard to research assistants, the ruling cited more reasons -- based on their support with external grants -- why they should not be considered eligible for collective bargaining.
The UAW -- which wants a way to challenge the precedents cited in the ruling -- is expected to appeal the decision. Union officials did not respond to e-mail or calls seeking comment. A spokesman for NYU, James Devitt, issued a statement praising the NLRB ruling. "The ruling not only follows the precedent [of the ruling finding teaching assistants to be students] ... but also acknowledges that even if that decision was overturned, research assistants would still not be considered employees under the National Labor Relations Act -- a conclusion consistent with four decades of precedent."
The UAW is also seeking to organize teaching assistants at NYU's main campus, and expects to use that case to push for a reconsideration of these issues by the NLRB.
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