Recently, a group of over seven hundred graduate teaching assistants and graduate research assistants at Oregon State University voted overwhelmingly to join the Coalition of Graduate Employees, Local 6069 of the American Federation of Teachers.
This election was a long time in the coming, and was made possible after a ruling from the Oregon Employment Relations Board (the Oregon public sector version of the NLRB) that overturned a 1977 case stating that graduate assistants who performed their work as part of their education requirements were not employees subject to the state law authorizing public employees to unionize. Link below.
This is a welcome development for Oregon, but the NLRB currently does not consider certain graduate assistant at private colleges to be employees under the National Labor Relations Act. Accordingly, if you are a graduate assistant at a private university that teaches or researches at least in part to fulfill a degree requirement, you do not currently have the statutory right to join a union even though you perform work for salary. Hopefully, this is about to change and the right to collectively bargain will be extended to a large group of employees across the country. The NLRB is considering the 2004 case that excluded these folks.
What a wonderful victory for workers!