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Abstract

While many public universities have been bargaining with student-employee unions for decades, the National Labor Relations Board has struggled with the notion of allowing bargaining on behalf of student-employees at private institutions. In recent years, the Board has twice changed course on the question, granting bargaining rights to graduate assistants at New York University in 2000, and four years later reversing itself in a case involving Brown University. The Board is now poised to rule on another case – this one involving student athletes at Northwestern University – which may present an opportunity to once again revisit the broader student-employee question. This article lays out the legal principles underlying the ongoing debate about bargaining among student-employees at private universities, and the possible application of those principles in the Northwestern University case.

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