Universities across the US are seeing an up-tick in union activity. Fifty years ago, 80% of university faculty positions were tenured or tenure-track jobs. Now this statistic is reversed, with about 80% of instructional jobs, including teaching graduate students, nontenured. These faculty have little say in university governance, few job protections, and low salaries.
Columbia University Provost John Coatsworth sent an email to the Columbia community pledging to continue legal efforts against graduate student unionization. The university has refused to bargain, while the union has authorized a strike and campus picket for April 24-30.
In 2016 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a groundbreaking ruling that graduate students at Columbia do fit the requirements for workers who could bargain collective agreements, which led to waves of organizing at campuses across the country. Increased union activity has been seen at the University of Chicago, Loyola University, the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, and Columbia College Chicago, among others.
Now that the NLRB balance of power has shifted under the Trump administration, union organizers fear the Columbia ruling could be reviewed and reversed, particularly if another university challenges their administration’s refusal to bargain. For this reason, Yale, Boston College, and University of Chicago have withdrawn petitions for NLRB recognition.