The hearing officer for the regional National Labor Relations Board rejected Columbia’s objections to the unionization vote by teaching and research assistants on Monday and recommended “overruling the Employer's objections in their entirety” to the regional director.
In December, students voted 1602 to 623 in favor of joining Graduate Workers of Columbia-United Auto Workers. Soon after, the University filed an objection with the NLRB, claiming improper conduct occurred during the voting period and calling for another election.
The hearing officer wrote that “the Employer has failed to demonstrate that any alleged objectionable conduct occurred which could have affected the results of this election, in which the Petitioner prevailed by more than 900 votes.”
The NLRB granted a hearing regarding the allegations on Jan. 23, stating that Columbia’s objections raised "material and substantial issues of fact that would be best resolved by a hearing." But union members criticized the University, claiming that it was attempting to ignore the results of a democratic election.
Now that the NLRB hearing officer has released the decision, union members are looking to begin making progress on negotiations with the University. Columbia can still file an exception with the NLRB against the recommendation, but if they do not, the regional director’s decision will go into effect.
While waiting for the NLRB’s decision, the union held elections last month for its bargaining committee, which will be responsible for negotiating a contract with the University. At that point, most union members had been confident that the NLRB would rule in their favor.
“We hope that the administration, if it truly wants to respect democracy on its own campus, will respect our mandate and not resort to further delays, especially as we have a newly elected bargaining committee ready to begin bargaining in good faith,” said Evan Jewell, a union member and classical studies Ph.D. in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
This most recent decision comes after years of campaigning on the part of graduate students and a historic decision by the NLRB in August to allow graduate students at private universities to unionize.
Cara Maines contributed reporting.