January 16, 2020

Cardin, Colleagues Slam NLRB Proposal to Strip Students Employed by Private Universities of Workplace Rights

Senators: “proposal…will harm working students, many of whom already struggle to attend class, maintain a job, and pay for the extraordinary costs of higher education”

WASHINGTON U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) joined U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and 12 Democratic senators, to condemn the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) proposal to deny students employed by their private colleges and universities their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). In a letter sent yesterday, the senators urged the NLRB to withdraw the proposed rule which would strip both undergraduate and graduate students who are employed by their private universities of fundamental workplace rights. Specifically, this rule would prevent these student employees from exercising their rights under the NLRA to join together to choose labor union representation, protest racism and sexism in the workplace, demand fair wages, secure better working conditions, and advocate for expanded access to child care.

“The NLRB’s proposal to deny students in higher education their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA or Act) will harm working students, many of whom already struggle to attend class, maintain a job, and pay for the extraordinary costs of higher education,” wrote the senators. 

Currently, students employed by their private universities enjoy the full protection of the NLRA, a powerful source of workers’ rights and protections. But the NLRB—the agency charged with enforcing these rights—has proposed to exclude all students performing work for a college or university from the NLRA. The Senators noted that the NLRB’s proposal undermines congressional intent behind the NLRA and that there is “no legitimate policy justification for excluding student employees from the Act’s protections.”

The letter was also signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-M.N.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

Full text of the letter is available here.

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