Friday, June 17, 2005

NYU's Announcement Not to Negotiate

This afternoon, the NYU administration announced that it was reneging on the historic agreement we reached three years ago, which substantially improved the working lives of graduate students at NYU. Despite the seemingly collegial tone of NYU's email, the content is nothing more than union-busting, plain and simple.

We are committed to securing a second contract for our members. Contrary to the administration's claims, we have made every effort to address all of the issues cited by the university as barriers to negotiations. In particular, we have fully addressed the administration's stated concerns about grievances.

Two weeks ago, we met with NYU representatives Jacob Lew and Terry Nolan. At the meeting, they told us repeatedly that the only issue blocking negotiations was a handful of grievances which the union had filed on behalf of members reappointed to lower paying positions not covered by the contract. We believe these grievances raise legitimate employment concerns, and do not infringe on academic decision-making; nonetheless, we offered to withdraw them on a permanent basis, if they were obstacles to bargaining a second contract. Today, at approximately 4 pm, less than an hour before the university issued a public announcement, NYU's general counsel, Terry Nolan, contacted us by telephone to tell us that the university rejected our offer, had decided not to negotiate, and that an announcement to that effect would be issued.

Tonight's announcement from the administration makes promises to the graduate student community. NYU says it will continue to raise pay and provide benefits, but without a union contract the administration can choose at any time to renege on its promises. The administration also proposes to deal with our "rights" by creating an appeal procedure in which the administration retains control at each step of the process. The administration claims good faith but is turning its back on the expressed desire of the overwhelming majority of graduate assistants, who have repeatedly asked NYU to negotiate with our union.

The administration made similar promises to us when we originally organized, hoping to dissuade us from voting to form a union. Now, like then, NYU is union-busting, and trotting out the same arguments about academic decision making. These claims didn't work then, and they won't work now. The administration is obviously hoping that the promise of three more years of raises will placate us and persuade us to surrender our democratic rights to collective bargaining and to a secure, legally enforceable contract. It is especially appalling that this supposedly liberal institution is using the tactics of anti-union corporate employers.

NYU began its message tonight by referring to the recent decision made by the National Labor Relations Board, which reversed the rights of graduate employees at private universities to organize under federal labor law. The NLRB is currently dominated by right-wing Republicans and has repeatedly issued decisions that undermine workers' rights. The recent decision on graduate employees, unlike the original unanimous NYU decision, was split 3-2, with the Democratic minority strongly dissenting. [To read the full decision and dissent, go to our website,] NYU, whose top administrators come out of the Clinton administration, is hiding behind a reactionary, Bush-appointed labor board.

NYU's email calls for 30 days of comment, including a "town hall" meeting at an unspecified date. We urge all of our members and supporters to attend the town hall meeting whenever it takes place. We will alert you of the date when it is announced. Until then, we also urge you to send an email message to the administration, rejecting their regressive proposal and insisting that they negotiate with us in good faith.

Our fight for a second contract will not end when NYU's thirty day period for comment ends. We remain committed to our union and determined to win a second contract. We took the first steps toward mobilizing for that contract this past spring when 800 of us signed an Open Letter to John Sexton and hundreds more rallied in front of his office at Bobst Library. In the coming weeks, we will be contacting members and supporters for their input on future action.


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