CGSU Members Respond to Cornell, Northwestern Football Player Union NLRB Case

Interested parties filed amicus briefs July 3 in the Northwestern University football player union representation case pending at the National Labor Relations Board.  Two briefs are of particular interest to CGSU.  The first was filed by the American Association of University Professors and argues the Board should overturn its 2004 Brown decision and find that private university graduate assistants to be covered as employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

The second was filed by Cornell, the rest of the Ivy League, MIT, and the Association American Universities.  It argues the Board should not reconsider Brown in its decision in Northwestern.

This week, in response to Cornell’s brief, CGSU members wrote a letter to Alan Mittman, Director of the Office of Workforce Policy and Labor Relations.  It appears below:

 July 14, 2014

Cornell Graduate Students United
General Correspondence Email Address:

Alan Mittman
Workforce Policy and Labor Relations
Cornell University

Dear Mr. Mittman:

I am a Ph.D. candidate in [Redacted], a Cornell employee, and a member of Cornell Graduate Students United (CGSU).

I write to inform you that union members have read Cornell et al.’s July 3, 2014 brief of amici curiae submitted to the National Labor Relations Board in Northwestern University (Case 13-RC-121359).  We disagree with the University’s argument that Northwestern is not the appropriate case for the Board to reexamine Brown University (342 NLRB 483, 2004).  We believe Brown was wrongly decided.  If the Board determines that revisiting its decision in Brown is necessary and relevant to the Northwestern matter, it should overrule the test of employee status articulated in Brown and replace it with one that more accurately reflects the situation of graduate students at private universities as both students and employees.

We would also like to point out that, no matter how Northwestern is decided, Cornell is already able to develop a voluntary recognition agreement in collaboration with CGSU.  Such an agreement would outline a fair process for our union to demonstrate majority support to serve as the exclusive representative of an agreed-upon bargaining unit once such a majority is obtained. New York University did this with GSOC-UAW Local 2110 in the fall of 2013, and we believe that a similar agreement would serve the long-term interest of Cornell as a leading global university.

Finally, we would like to commend the University for the constructive conversation several of our members had regarding some of these issues in a May meeting with President Skorton. We hope that it will be possible to continue this dialogue in the coming months.

Cornell Graduate Students United