Graduate Students Protest Georgetown's Position on Union

December 7, 2017

Graduate students at Georgetown University plan to rally this afternoon on campus in protest of the institution’s refusal to voluntarily recognize its would-be graduate student union. Georgetown has previously recognized a number of other unions on its campus, including a Service Employees International Union-affiliated one for adjuncts, citing its Just Employment Policy. But earlier this week, Provost Robert Groves told graduate students who wish to organize with the American Federation of Teachers that Georgetown believes “that a graduate student’s relationship with the university is fundamentally an educational one,” not an employer-employee one.

That opinion is in conflict with a 2016 decision from the National Labor Relations Board saying that student teaching and research assistants at private institutions are workers under the National Labor Relations Act and therefore entitled to collective bargaining (public campuses are governed by state laws on that issue). But Groves’s statement echoes those by leaders of a growing number of other, private institutions who’ve disagreed with the NLRB’s stance. Institutions may legally challenge the NLRB’s call. But the board itself has flip-flopped on graduate student-versus-employee question historically, and many union advocates fear a coming reversal by a body with more Trump administration appointees. The Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees delivered a letter to administrators last month announcing majority support for a union.

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