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Grad student teachers and researchers’ labor union will negotiate

| Nov 22, 2018 | Employee Benefits/erisa |

In New York, there are so many kinds of workers and jobs that it can become confusing as to whether they have the right to join a labor union and negotiate for a better collective bargaining agreement or nor. Workers who are functioning as employees while they focus on other endeavors are not at the mercy of their employer and expected to be satisfied with whatever terms of employment and employee benefits the employer chooses to give them. Labor law grants rights to employees and they should be prepared to unionize or join a current union to maximize their benefits and compensation. A law firm that specializes in unions is critical to this.

There has been an ongoing dispute between graduate student teachers and research assistants at New York’s Columbia University as to their rights to form a union. In the past, the school was unwilling to let them form a union. Now, however, the school has changed its tune and expressing a willingness to bargain if there are certain foundational agreements in place. The president of the school and its provost issued a statement mandating that the negotiations must begin in February 2019. The students are represented by the United Auto Workers. UAW is required to ratify its agreement.

With these conditions, the union will not be allowed to have a strike or initiate class disruptions until April 2020 at the earliest. There was a strike planned for early December that cannot take place should the union agree to these terms. There had been a strike in the spring. The agreement states that the academic decisions the school makes cannot be interfered with. The union can negotiate hours and wages. In the past, there was no agreement to negotiate. This was true despite the National Labor Relations Board issuing a 2016 ruling that the workers could form a union. The school stated the workers were students and not employees. There was an assertion that treating researchers and graduate students as if they were employees would cause unnecessary blurring of the lines and disruptions.

Labor disputes are common in New York and across the nation. These can be related to attempts at unionizing, the desire to improve benefits, how workers are sanctioned and more. A law firm that focuses on union representation and has experience in all areas of the law related to these cases is imperative to a successful resolution. Calling for legal assistance is critical at any juncture of the process and should be done immediately.