The battle over whether graduate students at universities can unionize entered a new phase on Friday, when Columbia University filed a challenge with the National Labor Relations Board over the recent vote by its graduate assistants to unionize.
Columbia said that tactics like voter coercion may have tipped the balance in favor of the union and that the N.L.R.B. should invalidate the vote.
At a rally at the Morningside Heights campus in Manhattan on Monday, students said the university was trying to drag out the fight, possibly until President-elect Donald J. Trump could appoint new members to the labor board, tipping the balance in a direction more likely to favor Columbia.
The “tactics” Columbia’s management are pointing to? According to management:
- Union leafleters were too close to the polling place!…which as an experienced union organizer I highly doubt was actually the case given that those distances are very clearly demarcated and you can talk to anyone coming and going without any need to step over a chalk line. Even if it was the case, a difference of a few feet didn’t change anyone’s votes.
- Union leafleters had cameras outside the building!…which somehow terrified people into voting for the union, despite the fact that the secret ballots were cast inside the building and the cameras in question couldn’t see through walls.
- The NLRB didn’t mandate employer or government IDs in order to vote! Wow, that sounds familiar.
- The NRLB wanted a different observer from the employer to be present at one poling place!
- One ballot location wasn’t open long enough and didn’t have enough challenge ballot envelopes!
Needless to say, this is all extremely small ball, and given the 72% to 28% outcome did not affect the outcome in the slightest. But that doesn’t matter, because as with what happened in North Carolina, the point here is to throw up any pretext for doubt long enough to delay matters so that the election isn’t certified before Trump can appoint his minions to the NRLB and reverse the ruling that gave Columbia students the right to vote. Which is exactly what Columbia did last time: Columbia graduate students got the right to organize back in 2000, but Columbia appealed and delayed so that the election wouldn’t happen until 2004, when George W. Bush’s NRLB reversed the ruling of the Clinton NLRB, at which point Columbia chained up the ballot boxes so that those votes could never be counted.
Two things can be learned from this: first, that supposedly liberal elite institutions have a lot to gain from a Trump presidency and won’t be shy in taking advantage of any opportunity; second, we can no longer allow Democratic presidents to delay granting the right to organize until they’re practically out the door and their regulatory decisions can be overruled by the next administration.