Bill Would Grant TAs at Private Colleges the Right to Form Unions

April 17, 2008

Washington — A bill introduced in Congress by the Democratic chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives education committees would take the political mystery out of whether graduate assistants at private colleges and universities have the right to form labor unions.

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled both ways on the issue. In a landmark 2000 ruling, it asserted that graduate students at New York University could unionize, and a wave of union-organization efforts followed. But that movement faltered four years later, when a reconstituted board decided that teaching assistants at Brown University were primarily students rather than employees, and therefore were not covered by federal labor law.

The measure introduced today by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. George Miller of California would amend the National Labor Relations Act so that the definition of an employee would specifically include teaching and research assistants at private universities and colleges, according to a statement on the senator's Web site. — Charles Huckabee