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News :: Labor
NYU administration attempting to bust graduate student union
27 Jun 2005
In a clear attempt to smash the 950-member graduate student-worker union at New York University, administrators recently announced that as of August 31 they would no longer recognize the union, an affiliate of United Auto Workers Local 2110 (www.2110uaw.org/gseu). But the union and its allies are fighting back...
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NYU administration attempts to bust graduate student union
but student-workers and allies fight back

By Bryan G. Pfeifer

In a clear attempt to smash the 950-member graduate student-worker union at New York University, administrators recently announced that as of August 31 they would no longer recognize the union, an affiliate of United Auto Workers Local 2110 (www.2110uaw.org/gseu).

“NYU should no longer use a union as an intermediary with our students; accordingly, the University should not negotiate a new contract with the UAW,” read a memorandum issued by Executive Vice President Jacob Lew and Provost David McLaughlin June 16.

In place of the union, the administration is proposing a representative student group to “interact” with them. Of course the administration claims that through this group a grievance process and ostensibly a written rights and responsibilities for graduate and teaching assistants would be adhered to.

But union leaders and members aren’t fooled. Without a legally binding union contract the student-workers have virtually no protections and rights. And graduate student-worker unions are often a stable ally for progressive organizations at universities.

Background

The National Labor Relations Board ruled in July 2004 that graduate students at private colleges are solely students, not workers, and cannot form unions. This latest ruling reversed a 2000 NLRB ruling that ruled graduate students had the right to organize as workers. Thus, at private universities like NYU, the administration must agree to voluntary recognition.

After a multi-faceted organizing drive that included dozens of job actions and various protests, NYU recognized the graduate student union in March 2001 and negotiated a five-year contract retroactive to 2000 and expiring on August 31, 2005.

Graduate student-workers at public universities are governed under different federal and state laws through labor boards such as state Labor Relations Commissions.

Graduate student-workers teach classes often with hundreds of undergraduate students, conduct research, grade papers, host review sessions and often do very similar work as tenure Ph.D. professors but are paid a pittance and live in virtual poverty. They often work with inadequate or no support staff or facilities while simultaneously attempting to complete their own graduate work and, in many cases, supporting children.

Fighting back

In response to the NYU decision, GSOC-UAW 2110 president Michael Palm, a Ph.D candidate in American Studies, said the student-workers are fighting for their union as they have been doing for years.

“We’re very disappointed and quite frankly appalled, but we’re definitely not surprised. [We’re] appalled that a supposedly liberal institution would not respect the overwhelming desire of its graduate students to bargain collectively as a union,” said Palm June 16.

“What this means for us is that we’re now organizing for recognition, just like we were five years ago. I see them backing us into a corner where we will have no choice to strike,” added Palm.

Numerous unions support the NYU graduate student-workers including the 2, 400-member Graduate Employee Organization, UAW Local 2322 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (www.geouaw.org). In an emergency email to its members, the union leadership calls on its members to support their sisters and brothers at NYU.

Likewise, the AFL-CIO in its June 23 “Voice at Work” email update, asked readers to inundate the NYU administration demanding they recognize the union.

According to the NYU administration, a 30-day period of notice and comment on the proposed decision will run through July 16. Email ga.dialogue (at) nyu.edu to demand the administration recognize the union.

For more information see: www.2110uaw.org/gseu.

-- 30 --
See also:
http://www.2110uaw.org/gseu.
http://www.geouaw.org

This work is in the public domain
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Re: NYU administration attempting to bust graduate student union
27 Jun 2005
Everybody send those emails!

An injury to one is an injury to all.