The Wall Street Journal is reporting that graduate students employed by New York University could walk off the job and hit the pickets as early as tomorrow morning if the grad students and the university cannot come to a consensus regarding a collective bargaining agreement. As the reader may recall, NYU agreed to recognize a graduate student union in November of 2013. And while the grad students have been unionized for over a year now, they still have yet to reach a first collective bargaining agreement with the university, which has led to the current strike threat.
In a short statement, a university spokesman implied that union negotiators were not bargaining in good faith:
“We had hoped that the cooperative spirit that prevailed at the time we agreed to recognize the union would be sustained at the bargaining table,” said John Beckman, an NYU spokesman. “That has, regrettably, not proved to be the case.”
Per the university, its latest offer to the graduate students includes increased stipends, full reimbursement of tuition, and a health and dental care package. But that offer has not placated the union, which is contending that the university should provide child care benefits to its members.
NYU officials may rue the day they decided to recognize the graduate students’ union if the union goes on strike, primarily because the university was not required to recognize the union at all. As we have written previously, the National Labor Relations Board held in Brown University, 342 NLRB No. 42 (2004), that graduate students were not employees for purposes of the National Labor Relations Act and therefore could not form a labor union. That decision, handed down by the Board during the Bush (43) administration, reversed course from earlier cases in which the Clinton Board extended organizing rights to the same types of students. The current Board, appointed by President Obama, is likely to be more impressed by the reasoning of the Clinton Board cases and could certainly reverse course (again).
Stay tuned to @LRToday for further updates on the potential strike action and any further negotiations between the parties.