In a decision today that could drastically alter the university landscape, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) voted 3-1 along party lines to grant employee status to graduate student assistants at Columbia University, allowing them to unionize.

The ruling, reversing a Bush-era 2004 decision, affects for-profit colleges and universities but not public institutions. The NLRB has no jurisdiction over public entities.

The Graduate Workers of Columbia-GWC, UAW filed an election petition seeking to represent both graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, along with graduate and departmental research assistants at the university in December 2014. The majority decision today reversed Brown University, saying it had “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the Act without a convincing justification.”

Act in the quotation above refers to the landmark National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which defined the rights of employees to organize.