Instead of making a proposal as a first step toward negotiating a contract in good faith, NYU gave us an ultimatum: take it or leave it. The University issued this proposal with a strict 48-hour deadline, making it impossible to submit the proposal to a vote by GSOC members, which must happen before the union can agree to anything on our members' behalf. NYU also refused any contact at all with the graduate student bargaining committee. Apparently NYU expects our union to operate the same way as President Sexton's office has: by issuing unilateral, top-down decisions first, and asking for "notice and comment" later. When we responded with questions regarding their proposal and asked NYU to meet with the GSOC bargaining committee, University administrators issued a "final decision:" their refusal to negotiate with our union.
The main provisions of their proposal are described below. We could not accept this frankly offensive proposal. Not only was it a blatant attempt at union-busting, it also failed to address, at numerous levels, the stated concerns of graduate students working at NYU.
As a pre-condition to any contractual agreement, GSOC would have had to accept the following terms (for further details, see the postscript at the end of this email):
· Grievance Procedure: NYU demanded that we accept a grievance procedure without neutral third party arbitration. Instead, the Provost would decide all grievances not resolved at the departmental and school levels. The only recourse for graduate assistants would be to go to court to prove that the Provost had made an "arbitrary and capricious" decision. The court would not consider whether the contract itself was violated. · Economic Package: NYU suggested pay increases of $1000 for the first three years of the contract, followed by four years of 2 per cent increases (a significant reduction from the current 4 per cent increases enjoyed under the current contract, in the case that your stipend is above the minimum). The administration's offer fails to address many other concerns that are important to GSOCers, like housing, child care, job security, and overtime protections. · Healthcare: While there would be no premium costs for individual health care, NYU would be allowed to reduce benefits over the life of the agreement. Moreover, their offer does not include any of the improvements that our members asked for in our bargaining survey, like dental and vision coverage. · Union Security: NYU has raised a new demand, designed to permanently weaken our collective bargaining strength. NYU wants to eliminate our right to "agency shop," the contract provision which requires graduate assistants covered by our contract to contribute dues or agency fees. This is a divide-and-conquer tactic meant to reduce the power of the union. Union security is a standard provision which every other union on campus has.
The administration´s proposed "contract" would allow it to decide unilaterally the terms and conditions of our employment, without our input or challenge. Their proposal to remove basic union rights like a fair grievance procedure with neutral arbitration and union security violate the core principles of democratic collective bargaining. This offer strikes us as a good example of what John Sexton meant in the Town Hall meeting when he suggested the possibility of a "unilateral contract," signed only by the party whom it benefits - in this case, the University. NYU's refusal to negotiate with us at all is further evidence of their bad faith.
Let us reiterate this fundamental point: NYU is not flagrantly ignoring a majority of its graduate employees, hundreds of tenured faculty, and a large number of undergrads just because it is interested in inventing a "new paradigm" of student voice on campus. It is doing so because in the long run it is cheaper to bust a union than to work with one. Thousands of GSOC members have fought for this union since 1997, not just out of principle - regular pay raises, guaranteed overtime, health provisions, and powerful representation in the University are gains we've all fought for and that we all deserve.
Despite platitudes about a campus "conversation" and a spirited "dialogue" on GSOC, NYU has undercut the democratic process at every step - that's why this decision was issued during summer vacation, after all. But we know that our fight will continue this fall. We are strong together; we won a union contract once, and we will win it again.
Further Details on NYU's "Offer":
On Grievances: A grievance procedure, and the contract itself, is only effective if there is a neutral process for resolving disputes and enforcing that contract. Since 2002, when our contract went into effect, we have filed grievances on behalf of graduate assistants who came to us and needed our help in cases where the contract was being violated. Over the course of our current contract, we have successfully grieved and won on cases involving issues such as overtime pay, health and safety, workload, tuition remission, timely paychecks, and inappropriate dues deductions by NYU's payroll department.
Under the terms of NYU's proposal, however, all grievances and claims of contract violations would be "fully and finally decided" by the Provost. The only way graduate students could challenge an unfairly decided dispute would be to file a claim in court under Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules. The court would NOT decide whether the University had violated the contract, but only if the behavior of the Provost was "arbitrary and capricious," a strict legal standard that is extremely difficult to prove. The terms of this article are far too limited to ensure the enforcement of a union contract, and would effectively give NYU the last word in every dispute.
On Economics: This offer clearly shows that NYU has no intention of continuing to increase wages by $1000 per year beyond their three-year promise made earlier this summer. NYU also failed to address the needs that our members communicated to us in our widely circulated bargaining surveys. Their "new paradigm" would not continue to provide our members with overtime pay and workload protections, protections to which we are entitled under our current contract.
On Union Security: NYU's proposal demands that GSOC become an open shop, meaning that members would only pay dues voluntarily. An "open shop" provision is an attempt to weaken the collective strength of employees. The standard 1.5% dues deduction is more than adequately paid for by the pay raises and health benefits that GSOC has negotiated. Union security is also a standard contract provision that all NYU unions, including the adjunct union (ACT/UAW) and the clerical/technical workers' union (AFT Local 3882), have in their contracts.