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Reed College’s Student Workers Will Be Permitted to Hold Union Election

Reed College has been directed to permit a subset of its student workers (known as Housing Advisers or HAs) to hold an election to form a union. Reed College opposed an election arguing that: 1) HAs cannot meet the statutory definition of “employee;” and 2) the unit definition should be broadened to include other students serving in similar roles. 

The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) Regional Director, applying the Columbia University test, rejected Reed College’s arguments holding HAs were employees under the Act because HAs perform a service to Reed College, are subject to its control, and perform their services for payment. The Regional Director also rejected Reed College’s plea regarding the definition of the unit concluding that the HAs’ “community of interest” was too dissimilar from the others because the roles were not interchangeable and each had distinct skills, training, job functions, and reporting structures.

This decision confirms that even with the new Administration, the Columbia University test remains intact. This is not the only labor decision impacting Higher Ed this year: a Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board hearing officer recently ruled that graduate students (serving as teaching and research assistants) at Penn State qualify as “employees” under the State’s Act and are permitted to attempt to form a union; and the NLRB has recently ordered Duquesne University to engage in collective bargaining with its adjunct faculty union. 

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About this Author

John R. Merinar, Jr., Attorney, Labor, Employment, Steptoe & Johnson Law Firm

Jack Merinar’s practice combines employer counseling, traditional labor law matters, and employment litigation. Mr. Merinar also defends ski areas in personal injury civil actions. He is the leader of the firm’s NLRA team. 

Allison B. Williams, Employment Attorney, Steptoe Johnson Law Firm

Allison Williams focuses her practice in the area of labor and employment law, litigation, and higher education law.  Ms. Williams' practice includes cases pending in state and federal courts, as well as actions pending before the West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Board, the West Virginia Human Rights Commission, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

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