Publications and Research

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In debates on the future of work, a common theme has been how work became
less secure through the denial of employee status. Though much of the attention
has focused on other industries, precarity has also affected those working in
higher education, including graduate student employees, contributing to what is
now called the “gig academy.” While universities have reassigned teaching and
research to graduate assistants, they have also refused to recognize them as
employees. Nevertheless, unionization has grown considerably since 2012, most
significantly at private institutions. Utilizing a unique dataset, this chapter
demonstrates that between 2012 and 2019, graduate student employees voted
overwhelmingly for representation. The chapter contextualizes this growth within
the history of their unionization movement. We argue that legal rights have been a
predominant factor, with graduate assistants confronting, and frequently
overcoming, their misclassification. Those experiences provide lessons for
workers in other industries facing similar obstacles.


Herbert, William A., and Joseph van der Naald. 2021. "Graduate Student Employee Unionization in the Second Gilded Age." Pp. 221-46 in Revaluing Work(ers): Toward a Democratic and Sustainable Future, edited by T. Schulze-Cleven and T Vachon. Champaign, IL: Labor and Employment Relations Association.



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