- The National Labor Relations Board withdrew March 12 a proposed rule that would have made graduate students ineligible to unionize under federal law, according to a statement.
- The proposal, which had been published in The Federal Register in September 2019 and corrected in October 2019, would have established that students who perform services for compensation — such as teaching or research — at a private or public university in connection with their studies, are not considered "employees" under the National Labor Relations Act.
- "The Board has decided to withdraw this rulemaking proceeding at this time in order to focus its limited resources on competing Agency priorities, including the adjudication of unfair labor practice and representation cases currently in progress," NLRB said in the statement.
The Board's move reflects a wider initiative by President Joe Biden to strike a labor-friendly policy approach at the NLRB following four years of rollbacks during the Trump administration.
It also represents the latest development in an issue that stretches back years. In 2016, the Obama administration NLRB ruled that graduate research and teaching assistants were entitled to collectively bargain under the NLRA, according to Inside Higher Ed.
Management-side attorneys with law firm Ballard Spahr said in a February webinar that employers should expect to see a reversal of several Trump-era NLRB decisions, including those involving independent contractor status, the use of company email systems to organize and the use of facially neutral policies requiring confidentiality during open work investigations.
Among the Biden administration's signals in favor of organized labor is its nomination of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to become Secretary of Labor. Walsh, a former union president, is set to have his nomination voted on by the full Senate March 22, Boston news station WCVB-TV reported last week.
During his confirmation hearing, Walsh reiterated his support for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a bill that would add legal protections for labor unions, among other provisions. Walsh called the PRO Act "one step closer to helping people organize freely."