The topic of unions is often deeply politicized in the United States, though many people likely agree that their purpose is to advocate for workers in employer negotiations. A newly minted union agreement between a college and its graduate students -- not paid employees -- might force us to reconsider that definition.
New York University graduate assistants voted overwhelmingly to join the United Automobile Workers last week, reports The New York Times, making it the only graduate assistants' union in the country to be recognized by a private university. Contract negotiations for the new U.A.W. affiliate -- which will include about 1,247 graduate students from NYU and its Polytechnic Institute in Brooklyn -- are expected to begin within the next few weeks. Matt Canfield, a fifth-year anthropology doctoral student, told The New York Times that he believes the move could press the school to improve health coverage for students, who saw a large jump in premiums last year.
"This is something we've been working for for eight years," said Canfield.