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NYU Grad Student Union Authorizes Strike

Sean Nortz writes:

New York University Graduate Students Strike

NYU Grad Students, through GSOC/Local 2110 UAW, have authorized a strike this morning which will result in a complete stoppage of work by graduate students in response to the administration's refusal to renew their contract, which expired on August 31, 2005 (the National Labor Relations Board, composed largely of apointees from a reactionary Bush administration, determined, contrary to a 2000 ruling, that universities do not have to negotiate with graduate student unions). A contract "offered" to the union by the administration in August was "little more than a public relations stunt" which acquiesced to none of the principal demands in an acceptable fashion.The previous contract — the first given to graduate students at a private university — granted graduate students higher wages (a 40% increase), health benefits, childcare support, procedures for grievance resolution, workplace democracy, and generally improved working conditions; not, as the administration claims, to attempt to dictate academic policy or engage in other nefarious activity. The contract benefitted not only students but the entire university as students from across the country went to NYU thanks to the improved conditions obtained via the union. So, NYU's decision will ultimately hinder its struggle to compete with ivy league universities, as well.

The administration has been responding to pressure with bad faith and boldfaced lies. A recent email sent to undergraduates (which received an obscenity laden reply from myself) portrayed the union as "disruptive" troublemakers, controlled by mysterious and ill-meaning "auto workers" interfering with education, and its grievances as unwarranted petty complaints (with Sexton going as far as to say that grad students make over $50,000 a year! The actual average is around $19,000, which is roughly at the poverty line - it was much less before the contract). An excerpt:

In our opinion, the Auto Workers union is embarking on a regrettable and unfortunate course: regrettable because it fails to respect the significance of your efforts to pursue your education, and unfortunate because such an action will not result in recognition of the UAW to represent our graduate assistants. We understand that the possibility of a job action is the last thing you need at this point in the school year. We want to reassure you that the University will maintain your academic progress.

A rally, with over a thousand attending washeld on August 31st, the day the contract expired, but was met not with dialogue but with a violent state crackdown, leading to dozens of arrests. "Open meetings" with President Sexton have seen him crassly refuse to discuss union issues, claiming that "the University's decision is final." The most recent such meeting, with a strike imminent, saw him in nothing less than rage.

The graduate students and their union have the overwhelming support of undergraduate students, faculty, and the rest of the NYU community. The administration must now show what its priorities are through its response to the strike.

Below is the e-mail sent out to all GSOC members today:

Attention GSOC members:

We have voted by an 85% majority to authorize a strike. The strike will begin on Wednesday, November 9th.

The GSOC Organizing Committee is calling for:

· All members of GSOC/UAW Local 2110 who are working this fall as TAs, RAsand GAs to withhold our labor, starting Wednesday, November 9 until the NYU administration negotiates a second contract with us. Being on strike means not teaching, grading, advising, performing GA or RA work or any other task which is part of our TA/RA/GA responsibilities.

· All GSOC members, whether working this fall or not, to join our picket line and refuse to do the work of striking colleagues.

Picket shifts and strike logistics will be announced shortly. We will be in contact regularly, and every GSOC member should stay informed via the “strike center” on our website: www.2110uaw.org. It is important that all members maintain updated contact info so that we can reach everyone quickly when necessary.

Our resounding strike vote is the culmination of months of organizing, and a demonstration of our membership’s resolve to win a fair second contract. NYU’s recent anti-union emails show that they are on the defensive and feeling the pressure of our campaign. Despite the administration’s anti-union spin, our support from the NYU community is growing daily:

· Over 200 full-time and adjunct faculty have already requested to move their classes off campus to honor our picket line.

· Over a dozen departments as well as the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Tisch School of the Arts have passed resolutions in support of GSOC.

· Over 250 faculty have signed a statement of neutrality, pledging to respect the right of GSOC members to strike without facing intimidation or retaliation.

· Hundreds of undergraduates have pledged support. Under the leadership of GUS (Grad/Undergrad Solidarity), undergrads are urging their professors to move classes off campus and encouraging their parents to demand that NYU recognize our union.

· The Washington Square News has repeatedly published editorials, articles and commentaries supporting our union and calling on the administration to negotiate.

· Members from other shops in Local 2110 and several members of the grad union at Yale have come to work on our strike. We have the full support of the UAW, and union solidarity will make our strike stronger.

The stronger our strike is, the more effective it will be. We urge all GSOC members to volunteer time this week and this coming weekend to help prepare for the strike. There are dozens of ways in which you can help, including making signs, helping to re-locate classes, phone banking, etc. Reply to this email or call the GSOC office at 212.387.0220 to find out what you can do to help win rights, respect and union recognition.

In solidarity,
The GSOC Organizing Committee

Voice your support! Contact President Sexton and demand that the NYU administration meet the demands of the union: John.sexton@nyu.edu. or (212) 998-2345.