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In case you haven’t yet heard, the National Labor Relations Board announced on Friday that Columbia graduate teaching and research assistants voted to unionize. This makes Columbia the second private university after NYU to have its graduate student TAs and RAs be represented by a union.

Students who voted have a week to contest how the vote was conducted through the NLRB. If there are no objections, Graduate Workers of Columbia will be granted a union certification by the NLRB.

Chances are you haven’t read all of Spec’s coverage on graduate student unionization and everything’s still a foggy fog of info. To save you from sounding stupid when someone brings this up, take 90 secs to read this quickie review of wtf unionization is and how it affects you.

How does this vote affect you?

Grad and undergrad TAs and research assistants (we’ll call research assistants “RAs” even though they’re not “RA RAs.”) can gain several benefits from unionization. Since the first contract hasn’t been written yet, we dk really how the union will affect CU. However, here are some possibilities.

The good

  • Since TAs and RAs will be able to collectively bargain with the University over wages and other working conditions, then chances are that: happy with wages → happy with job → good at job → helpful to you. (Hypothetically—it’s really a matter of what official contracts will look like.)

The bad

  • Potential strikes could impact recitations, discussion sections, and TA availability. Whether you actually go to office hours or not, this could impact grading, teaching, and other aspects of your learning process.

How did we get here?

Early 2015: Discussions about unionization kicked off. GWC called for a reopening of a 2004 NLRB ruling involving Brown that stopped grad students at private universities from forming unions.

March 2015: New York’s regional NLRB began a series of hearings to decide if grad student TAs and RAs had the right to unionize.

Oct. 2015: The regional NLRB announced it couldn’t overturn the 2004 precedent and dismissed GWC’s petition.

Nov. 2015: GWC appealed and filed a request that the national NLRB in Washington, D.C. review its petition to unionize. This board was appointed by President Barack Obama and had the power to overturn the 2004 ruling.

Dec. 23, 2015: The national NLRB announced that it would review the case in December.
August 2016: In a 3-1 decision, the NLRB overturned the previous ruling. Grad TAs and RAs could now unionize.
August to December 2016: Since the NLRB ruling applied to all student employees providing instructional services, undergrad TAs would be included in the union. This influenced how unions would affect undergrad RAs and TAs.
December 7 and 8, 2016: Students voted.
December 9, 2016: The NLRB confirmed that grad and undergrad students voted 1602 to 623 in favor of forming a union.

It’s not 100 percent clear what’ll happen over the next few months since the union and University still need to negotiate a first contract, but this is what you need to know now.

What’s your take on the unionization of graduate and undergraduate TAs and RAs? Comment down below, Facebook message us, Tweet us, or Snapchat us @CUSpectrum.

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