How Graduate Unions Are Winning—and Scaring the Hell out of Bosses—in the Trump Era

December 12, 2018 / Sabrina Balderama

In These Times

By Daniel Moattar

November 29, 2018

In a 1,035 to 720 vote, Columbia University’s graduate student union has agreed to a bargaining framework with the university’s administration, a milestone victory in the union’s nearly five-year campaign for recognition. The vote outcome, announcedearlier this week, follows Columbia’s November 19 announcement that it would bargain with the union, ending long-standing efforts to halt graduate unionization on campus and in the courts.

Columbia’s decision is the latest—and one of the most notable—in a string of concessions by university administrators at private institutions across the country. It’s a wave of labor action that belongs to the Trump era: The NLRB’s Columbia University ruling, extending bargaining rights to graduate workers at private universities, was issued in August 2016, just before Trump won the electoral college. Graduate unions have spread quickly in the two years since.

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