Regarding Greenberg’s Local 33 Effort

Aaron Greenberg’s GRD ’18 piece for the News (“GREENBERG: Trump or Us, Yale?”, April 13, 2017) highlights an inherent inconsistency at the heart of the graduate student unionization movement, which I have watched with growing concern over the past year.

Greenberg and his peers who support the formation of Local 33 would like to claim — what they see as — the benefits of Federal employment laws. In pushing for elections, they have treated the University as nothing more than their employer and cast themselves as straightforward employees. Yet when Yale responds, in Greenberg’s words, “like a traditional employer” and resists unionization, he and his compatriots cry foul. Shouldn’t Yale, he asks of us, act like an enlightened educational institution and respond to the wishes of its students?

But Greenberg and those graduate students who wish to unionize cannot have it both ways. Either Yale is “a tradition, a company of scholars, a society of friends,” in which graduate students are a part of a self-governing academic community. Or they are employees — no different, say, than factory workers — who often engage in tense, legal negotiations with employers. However, graduate students cannot be both, at once, cherry-picking specific attributes of students and employees to suit their needs of the moment. Indeed, this inconsistency is one reason that I (someone who spent two years as a graduate student before entering law school) find the idea of graduate student unionization deeply troubling.

Nathaniel Zelinsky ’13, Law ’18