Please do not shoot the messenger.

Recent remarks by Wilma B. Liebman, Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board, make clear that one item on the agenda of a newly constituted NLRB will be reversal of the 2004 NLRB ruling that graduate students serving as university research and teaching assistants are primarily students, not employees, and thus do not have the right to unionize. Indeed, she expressed her disagreement with that decision and noted, while speaking at Baruch College of the City University of New York, that "what the NLRB needs to reconsider the earlier ruling is a legal dispute to resolve."

Click here for the article published in yesterday's Inside Higher Ed detailing Chairman Liebman's remarks. The issue likely will make its way back to an NLRB whose chairman has declared that graduate students should have the right to unionize and bargain over the terms and conditions of their "employment" as teaching and research assistants.

So, regrettably, dust off the graduate student unionization file and get set for an era of intense organizing activity on the higher education front. Because of the issue's importance to universities―indeed, many commentators believe that graduate student unionization cuts at the heart of academic freedom―now is the time to get prepared.

There are many things that universities can do in advance of an organizing campaign to protect against graduate student unionization. Ballard Spahr is uniquely positioned to advise you in that regard, having represented a number of universities with differing priorities in the initial graduate student unionization campaigns.

To help prepare or learn more, please contact David S. Fryman, 215.864.8105 or

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