NLRB upholds U of Chicago student union

  • December 4, 2018

The National Labor Relations Board ruled today that the University of
Chicago, in refusing since March to bargain with its graduate student union,
“engaged in unfair labor practices.”

The university had sought to overturn Columbia, an Obama-era NLRB decision that allowed graduate students at private
universities to organize. In October 2017, Provost Daniel Diermeier argued in
an email to students and faculty, “the NLRB has a long
history of recognizing that graduate assistants are foremost students, not
employees under federal labor law.”

A board majority that is likely amenable to reversing Columbia nonethelessrejected the University of Chicago’s argument today in a unanimous opinion. In its ruling, the NLRB faulted the
university for failing “to adduce at a hearing any newly discovered and
previously unavailable evidence” or to show “any special
circumstances that would require the board to reexamine” the earlier
decision.

In a footnote, Republican Chairman John Ring signaled that he’d be willing
to challenge Columbia in “a future appropriate proceeding” —
one that might stand a better chance of surviving an appeal to federal court.