Publications and Research

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 3-2020


This article presents data, precedent, and empirical evidence relevant to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) proposal to issue a new rule to exclude graduate assistants and other student employees from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The analysis in three parts. First, the authors show through an analysis of information from other federal agencies that the adoption of the proposed NLRB rule would exclude over 81,000 graduate assistants on private campuses from the right to unionize and engage in collective bargaining. Second, the article presents a legal history from the past half-century about unionization of student employees at private and public sector institutions of higher education, including the NLRB’s oscillation on the question of whether student employees are protected under the NLRA. The inconsistencies of the NLRB is in stark contrast to state and Canadian provincial precedent during the same period.. Lastly, the authors analyze the terms of 42 current collective bargaining agreements covering student workers, including 10 at the private sector institutions. The empirical evidence from five decades of relevant collective bargaining history, precedent, and contracts demonstrates consistent economic relationships between student employees and their institutions.


This article was originally published in the Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy.



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