Graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania are entitled to form a union, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled November 21 in Philadelphia. Although Dorothy L. Moore-Duncan's ruling included teaching assistants, it excludes research assistants in the natural sciences, following precedent set in cases at New York University (NYU) and Stanford. "Science graduate students who are financially supported by external grants are not employees of the University when they serve as assistants," the ruling stated.

U. Penn administrators plan to appeal the ruling, as Columbia, Brown and Tufts universities are appealing similar judgments.

The full NLRB granted NYU students the right to organize in 2000, a major victory that further spurred the union movement at private universities. Public institutions are already covered under state labor agreements, while private universities require federal rulings from the NLRB, explained Christian Sweeney, president of the United Automobile,...

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