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76 Arrested Protesting N.Y.U. Cutoff of Student Union

76 Arrested Protesting N.Y.U. Cutoff of Student Union

Karen W. Arenson

The president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., the secretary-treasurer of the
United Auto Workers and a state senator were among nearly 80 people
who were arrested yesterday during a protest of New York University's
decision to end dealings with a union of graduate student teaching and
research assistants.

The protesters linked arms and sat down in front of the university's
Bobst Library, despite warnings from the police that they would be
charged with disorderly conduct."This is about the N.Y.U. administration union busting," John J.
Sweeney, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., declared to a cheering,
sign-waving crowd. "We are here today to express our anger and our
disgust. Union busting is for corporate criminals who have no values,
not for an educational institution."

"We're going to be here for as long as it takes to get a good
contract," he added.

The National Labor Relations Board gave the N.Y.U. students the right
to unionize in late 2000, making N.Y.U. the first private university
to have a graduate student employee union. The union, the Graduate
Student Organizing Committee, had about 1,000 members and was
affiliated with the U.A.W., which has an arm that has long organized
white-collar workers.

But after a revamped national labor board reversed that position last
year, the university decided not to renew its contract with the union.

Yesterday, hundreds of graduate students, professors, union leaders
and others, including the actress Morgan Fairchild and people from
N.Y.U., Yale, the University of Massachusetts and other universities,
turned out on a hot, humid afternoon to mark the final day of the
N.Y.U. union contract.

For many in the labor movement, N.Y.U. has become a symbol of
organized labor's determination to expand its presence in academe.

"A lot of graduate unions are rallying around our N.Y.U. brothers and
sisters because of concerns about what the university's decision may
portend," said Jeremy Wolf, a Ph.D. student in political science at
the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who was among the

Another protester, Andrew Ross, a professor of American studies at
N.Y.U. who was dressed in an academic cap and gown, said the protest
marked the beginning of a public campaign against the university.

"There almost certainly will be a strike," he said.

John Beckman, an N.Y.U. spokesman, said administrators were preparing
for a strike "to insure that the academic experience of our students
is what it should be."

He said the university had decided not to continue to recognize the
union because it had not abided by an agreement not to interfere with
academic decision-making.

He said the union had filed grievances on academic matters like the
selection of teachers for courses. The university offered to continue
bargaining over economic issues if the union would forgo its right to
file such grievances, but the union rejected that offer.

Union officials said that they filed complaints when they believed
conditions were unfair and that the procedure was important to retain.

Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne said that 76 people were
arrested on charges of disorderly conduct but were not held, and that
they all went peacefully. He said the department was notified in
advance of the plan for civil disobedience.

Those arrested included Elizabeth Bunn, the secretary-treasurer of the
U.A.W., and State Senator Thomas K. Duane. Other political officials
at the protest included State Senator José M. Serrano and City Council
members Gifford Miller, Christine Quinn, Gale Brewer, Robert Jackson
and Bill de Blasio.