Last summer, my pro bono representation of a group of University of Pennsylvania graduate students caused a bit of a brou-hah-hah among the SWJ‘s leading the unionization of Penn’s graduate schools. (It also garnered me the most gracious complement ever from the American Federation for Teachers, who sent out a mass email calling me a “destructive force.” I cannot thank the AFT enough for that comment it has been great for marketing.)
Late yesterday, it was learned that the AFT had withdrawn its petition to organize the graduate students at Penn. News comes on the heals of similar actions at Boston College and Yale. As much as I would like to think it was because of my “destructive force” abilities as a lawyer, alas, I had nothing to do with it. The withdraws are a strategic attempt by the unions to prevent the National Labor Relations Board from overturning the Obama-era Columbia University decision that granted graduate students the right to organize. By withdrawing the petitions, the unions hope to prevent an appeal which would offer the NLRB the opportunity to overturn Columbia University. The unions appear to be content to play the long game and hope the current Republican majority make up of the Board changes in five years in which case they could continue unionization efforts of graduate students using the intact Columbia University precedent. It is an interesting tactic and we will see how it plays out. Of course, the NLRB can still its little used rule making authority to sua sponte overturn Columbia U.