Dispute over labor union sparks grad student walkout in New York

Unions can come in many different occupations. In some circumstances, it might sound a bit unusual for workers to try and unionize and exercise their rights to collective bargaining to maximize their compensation and benefits, but they have the right to do so. When there is a decision on the part of a workforce to try to move forward with forming a union, one of the most important factors in the creation of a union and effective negotiation is having skilled union representation with help from a qualified law firm.

People who are still in school and working, while at the school might not be expected to have a labor fight with their employer and the university they attend, but that is just what is happening when graduate students at Columbia University staged a strike. More than 500 of the graduate students voted to strike when the university decided not to allow bargaining with its union. These graduate students teach and assist in the grading of papers. In 2016, they joined the United Automobile Workers. Their earnings tend to be less than $30,000. This while one of the leaders in the dispute says they are responsible for helping the university accrue significant sums in funding and grants.

There is a disagreement on whether these students even should be allowed to form a union. The National Labor Relations Board was unclear on the subject as it made two decisions that are seemingly in conflict with one another. The current presidential administration differs from the last one in its position that students should not be able to form unions. The case is believed to be headed to federal court. For its part, the school does not view the graduate students as employees and says they should not be treated as such.

Labor law is a complicated area and people who are seeking to become union members, or negotiate as a group often meet backlash from an employer who is concerned about the cost of paying union wages. When there is a decision to join a union and negotiate a contract, having legal assistance that understands the details of unions is imperative. Before moving forward with a strike or other labor activities, having legal advice is a must.

Source: The New York Daily News, "Columbia University graduate students go on strike over union fight," Molly Crane-Newman & Reuven Blau, April 24, 2018

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