New York University and International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, AFL-CIO, Case No. 2-RC-22082 (Apr. 3, 2000)

This National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case raised the issue of whether graduate assistants are "employees" under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In April 2000 the NLRB Regional Director (Region 2) ruled that graduate assistants at NYU were employees under the NLRA, and NYU appealed the Region 2 decision to the NLRB. In June 2000 AAUP filed an amicus brief  (pdf) in support of the UAW, contending that the unionization of graduate assistants will not violate NYU's institutional academic freedom, disrupt graduate student involvement in university governance, or interfere with the mentoring relationships between faculty members and their graduate students. The brief argued that AAUP's policies and bargaining experience make clear that collective bargaining is consistent with academic freedom, shared governance and mentoring relationships.

Status: In October 2000 the NLRB issued a decision that upheld the Region 2 Director's ruling that NYU graduate assistants were employees under the National Labor Relations Act and, therefore, may unionize. In so doing, the Board rejected the university's claim "that collective bargaining with graduate assistants will infringe on academic freedom." The Board reasoned: "While mindful and respectful of the academic prerogatives of our Nation's great colleges and universities, we cannot say as a matter of law or policy that permitting graduate assistants to be considered employees entitled to the benefits of the Act will result in improper interference with the academic freedom of the institution they serve."