[Updated (10/22/2015, 4:28 p.m.) with more details.]
The National Labor Relations Board voted on Wednesday to consider the case of graduate students at the New School who are trying to form a union. The decision to review an official’s July ruling that blocked the case could signal a willingness by the board to overturn a 2004 precedent, in a case at Brown University, seen as standing in the way of graduate-student unionization at private universities.
In July, Karen P. Fernbach, a regional director in the NLRB’s New York City office, ruled that the board’s Brown precedent clearly stated that graduate students at private universities are to be considered primarily students, not employees, and therefore not eligible to unionize.
In their petition to the board, the New School graduate students’ lawyers asked that the board confront the 2004 precedent head-on. They wrote, in part: “The board should rule on the validity of Brown without further delay.”
In a 3-to-1 vote on Wednesday, the board decided to review the regional official’s July order.
The news comes amid increased chatter about the possibility of graduate-student unionization at elite private colleges. This month Harvard University sent a letter to faculty members that included a two-page “guide for discussion” on the issue of such union efforts.