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American U Grad Students Unionize

April 11, 2017

Graduate student workers at American University voted to form a union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, 212 to 40, they announced Monday. Some 761 students were eligible to vote, according to information from the university.

The National Labor Relations Board said last summer that graduate student employees at private institutions are entitled to collective bargaining. Since then, a union vote at Harvard University proved inconclusive, as did a vote at Cornell University. Graduate student organizers at Duke University withdrew their union bid. A majority of voting departments at Yale University approved "micro-unit" union bids, however, and students at Columbia University and Loyola University at Chicago have formed unions. Graduate teaching and research assistants at The New School recently received permission from the NLRB to proceed with a union election.

A number of private institutions have challenged the NLRB’s decision and their students’ right to collective bargaining. Camille Lepre, a spokesperson for American, said via email that the university "respects the choice of the majority of the graduate students who voted, and it does not intend to file a legal challenge to the election results. We look forward to engaging in a constructive dialogue with the union about issues related to our graduate students."

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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