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Next Showdown Over TA Unions at Private Universities?

December 8, 2014

The Graduate Workers of Columbia on Friday told Columbia University that a majority of teaching assistants and research assistants have signed cards asking that the United Auto Workers local be recognized as a union. A statement from the union noted that if the university does not voluntarily agree to collective bargaining, the UAW could ask the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an election and (assuming a majority of the graduate students back the UAW) certify the union. A Columbia spokesman said that the university was not commenting on the UAW request.

In 2004, the NLRB ruled that graduate teaching assistants could not unionize at private universities. (State laws, which vary, govern the unionization of T.A.s at public universities, and many such unions have existed for a long time.) Supporters of graduate student unions have been looking for a test case -- particularly with an NLRB that is more friendly to unions than the board was in 2004 -- to reverse that ruling. A UAW unit at New York University was headed toward being the test case, but NYU agreed last year to a union election, and the case was withdrawn.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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