The official dates, times and locations of the NLRB election are below:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

  • Morningside Heights Campus: 10am – 8pm, Earl Hall
  • Columbia University Medical Center: 10am – 8pm, Hammer Health Sciences Building Lower Level 1 Room 104)
  • Lamont-Doherty earth Observatory: 10am – 3pm, Sutton House

Thursday, December 8, 2016

  • Morningside Heights Campus:10am – 8pm, Earl Hall
  • Columbia University Medical Center: 10am – 8pm, Hammer Health Sciences Building Lower Level 1 Room 104)
  • Nevis Laboratory, Irvington, NY: 10am – 12pm, conference room at 136 South Broadway

You can read the full decision of the NLRB regional director here.


As our National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election approaches, we encourage all eligible voters to participate.  To that end, see below for a brief FAQ and more detailed information about who is eligible to vote on December 7 and 8.  If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact us at

Who will be represented by the union?

The NLRB decision on August 23 defined the “bargaining unit,” or which positions would be represented by the union in collective bargaining.  That unit includes: “All student employees who provide instructional services, including graduate and undergraduate Teaching Assistants (Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Preceptors, Course Assistants, Readers and Graders): All Graduate Research Assistants (including those compensated through Training Grants) and all Departmental Research Assistants employed by the Employer at all of its facilities, including Morningside Heights, Health Sciences, Lamont-Doherty, and Nevis facilities.”  Any other employees are not included.

Who is eligible to vote in the NLRB election?

Because of the intermittent nature of work as RAs and TAs, the NLRB established an “eligibility formula” for voting in the election that includes not just current employees but also people who worked in the previous academic year who may not be currently employed in the unit.  After listening to arguments from the union and the university, the decision setting the election defines the pool of eligible voters as follows.

Eligible to vote will be all unit employees who:

(1) hold an appointment [RA or TA] or a training grant in a unit position in the fall semester

2016 or

(2) are course assistants, graders or readers who are on the casual payroll and who worked 15

hours per week or more in a unit position in the fall semester 2016; or

(3) have held a unit position for either the fall, spring or summer during the prior academic


You can read the full NLRB decision on eligibility here.

Throughout deliberations with the NLRB, Columbia has sought to limit eligibility to vote.  The University took the position that only students actually working this semester would be allowed to vote.  This formula was established by the NLRB in response to the Union’s efforts to expand the franchise to as many student employees as possible within the limits of the law.

What if I believe I am eligible, but the University did not include me on the voter list?

If you believe you are eligible, based on the NLRB decision and election order, and you are not on the list provided to the NLRB by the University, you may still vote and cast a “challenged” ballot.  If the number of challenged ballots cast ends up being determinative of the outcome, the union and the University would attempt to resolve the eligibility of those individuals in order to resolve the final outcome of the election.

Again, we encourage all who are eligible to participate in this historic vote.  If you have any questions, please do contact us and we will be happy to help you with any questions about the union or voter eligibility issues.

What if I have won my own fellowship?

The NLRB did not determine that individual fellowships from an outside agency, such as an F31 NIH Fellowship, are in the bargaining unit, as the terms and decision as to who receives the award are set by the NIH and not the University.  However, since most NIH fellows work in departments where the departmental rate is significantly higher than the NIH stipend, the department supplements the total pay with other university money that is typically used for RAs doing research in the labs.  By virtue of that compensation for research, the union believes you should be in the bargaining unit and should therefore be eligible to vote.  If the University did not put you on the eligibility list, you should feel free to vote challenged and if the challenges are determinative, we would have to resolve those with Columbia.

What if I am a first-year PhD student in a department, like History, and have not yet worked as a TA or TF because we don’t usually teach until our second year?

Unless you have another bargaining unit position, such as a grader position, you are not eligible to vote.  In order to be eligible to vote in an NLRB election, an employee must have actually started working in a bargaining unit job before the NLRB orders that the election be held.  It is not enough that the employee has been hired by the Employer and told that he or she will start working in the future: he or she must have actually started working.  The NLRB has applied this rule for at least 60 years.