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Georgetown University hinted this week at a possible private union election agreement with its would-be graduate student union. Graduate assistants rallied last month after the university said it would not voluntarily agree to recognize the union, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. But organizers have since floated the idea of a private union election, one overseen by a body other than the federal National Labor Relations Board. In a memo this week, Robert Groves, provost, said Georgetown “is seriously considering this proposal to determine whether it might provide an opportunity for a framework that recognizes that our graduate students’ relationship with the university is fundamentally an educational one, while also responding to some graduate students’ desire to have a stronger voice in our continuing work to create the conditions under which they can flourish.” 

Graduate assistant organizers said on their Facebook page that Georgetown’s “partial reversal” from its “steadfast denial of our legal status as workers to now being willing to negotiate a third party election is the direct result of our collective actions and our support from faculty, alumni, undergraduates, fellow grad workers and the Georgetown community as a whole.” New York University surprised many when it entered into a private agreement with its United Auto Workers-Affiliated graduate student union in 2013. The NLRB has since said that graduate assistants on private campuses are employees entitled to collective bargaining.