The National Labor Relations Board today issued a long-awaited ruling that graduate students working as teaching and research assistants at private universities are allowed to unionize. The issue at hand has long been one of semantics: are graduates on paid assistantships more like students, or more like employees? Are the assistantships more like a fundamental training component of a program of study, or more like jobs done by the students to support themselves financially?
In a modern economy, it’s normal for us to have many roles. We are all at various times and places workers, producers, owners, buyers, sellers. This weird beast called the “gig economy” is blurring the lines even more.
How should this affect the way we view advocacy and collective representation based on economic roles? I think that it’s (increasingly?) proper for us to view them as advocacy for all, rather than exclusively as advocacy for subsets of insiders.