Union Impact and Non-Impact

Published at Inside Higher Ed on October 8, 2013; by Scott jaschik.

Graduate student unionization is very much in the news these days, with the National Labor Relations Board expected to rule soon on whether graduate assistants may unionize at private universities. New York University on Friday offered a deal to the United Auto Workers unit organizing graduate students at the university under which NYU would accept a vote on a teaching assistant union but not a research assistant union. The debates over unions frequently deal with whether the nature of the student-faculty relationship deteriorates with collective bargaining, and whether unionized graduate students earn more.

Currently, there are no private universities with graduate student unions. But many public universities have them, and the authors of a paper released this year surveyed similar graduate students at universities with and without unions about pay and also the student-faculty relationship. The study found unionized graduate students earn more, on average. And on various measures of student-faculty relations, the survey found either no difference or (in some cases) better relations at unionized campuses.

The paper (abstract available here) appears in ILR Review, published by Cornell University.

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