Over 12,000 Comments Submitted on NLRB Rule as Deadline Looms

The rule received more comments than any other rule proposed in 2019.

By Miles Burton, Co-Editor-in-Chief ('20-'21)

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) collected more than 12,000 comments about a proposed federal rule that could hamper graduate student unionization efforts across the country—more than any other rule proposed by the NLRB in 2019.

Following an extension of the comment period in November, the deadline to receive those comments is now Wednesday, January 15.

In September, the NLRB issued a proposed rule that would define undergraduate and graduate student workers as nonemployees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). If the rule becomes permanent it will overturn the Columbia decision, the 2016 NLRB adjudication that expanded the labor protections afforded to student workers under the NLRA.

As part of the federal rule-making process, the NLRB is required to solicit public comment on the proposed rule.

In recent weeks, Graduate Students United (GSU) has pressed supporters to submit comments in support of graduate student workers via social media.

“Our members and supporters are incredibly thoughtful and creative, and they’re approaching this in lots of ways,” GSU said in a statement to The Maroon.

Supporters have argued in comments that the University relies on work done by graduate students and contested “the Board’s claims this rule will decrease instability in this area of labor law,” GSU said.

While the Board has traditionally used adjudications of individual cases to establish precedent, the rule-making process (which includes the public comment period) would make it more complicated for a future majority on the Board to reinstate the rights granted by the Columbia decision.

GSU said that it was undeterred by the prospect of the rule becoming permanent.

“A union contract would benefit us, our students, our faculty mentors, and the University as a whole. A poorly reasoned rule from a wildly anti-labor NLRB doesn’t change that,” GSU said.

Student Government’s (SG) executive slate has also urged students on social media to submit comments on the proposed rule.

“All undergraduates benefit from the labor of grad students workers, and we encourage them to submit comments to the NLRB in support,” the SG executive slate told The Maroon. “Grad students have helped us in countless ways, and it’s our turn to help them.”

Comments can be submitted until January 15 online or by mail to the Board’s offices in Washington, D.C.