Friday, January 27, 2006

Amy's Speech at Thursday's Rally

Below is Amy LeClair's speech at the GSOC Labor Rally, Thursday, January 26, 2006

I’m standing here today with other students who have received their letter from the administration. First we were three, now we’re six or seven. I was among the first, but I know I won’t be the last. I’d like to talk to you about how I ended up here.

I came to graduate school because I love learning. More than anything, I love to teach, and getting my PhD is my means to this end. One of the main reasons I chose to come to NYU was because of the generous funding package they could offer me with guaranteed funding and excellent health benefits. That package that got me here, that promise that was held out to me, was a direct result of the unionizing efforts of graduate students at this university. They fought hard for the rights and benefits we enjoy, and now the university administration is rolling back those benefits and trying to threaten, intimidate, and scare me out of this fight. It’s not going to work, and here’s why.

Teaching is an enormous responsibility, and I take that very seriously. Teaching is work – hard work – and anyone that does not understand that, that teaching is work, should not be in the business of education. The university administration has reminded me time and time again of my obligations to my undergraduate students. And now my stipend is going to be terminated, I am essentially being fired from my JOB for not only the current but future semester as well, because I am not fulfilling my responsibilities. But as one of my colleagues so astutely pointed out, with responsibilities come rights. The university is trying to systematically deny me the rights that come with my responsibilities as a teacher – the right to collectively
organize, the right to democratically elect a body to represent me, and the right to unionize to protect my interests as a worker.

What the university keeps saying is, “You’re a student, not a worker. You’re not a worker. You’re not a worker.” This is what I keep hearing from the administration. But that’s not what I’m seeing. What I’m seeing is my undergraduate students respecting my decision to strike because they understand how committed I am to my teaching. I see the university trying to use public relations as a way to get away from our arguments, because there’s no other way to respond to them. I see the university trying to recover from the impact of our struck labor. I see the university make threat after threat after threat and set deadline after deadline after deadline. With every action they take, I see just how much my labor, and the labor of all the graduate students, matters, and how important it is for me to have the protection and security only a union contract can offer me.

I feel a deep sense of responsibility to my students, but I believe I can teach them a lot more by my actions that the university can by having a PR team crank out rhetoric about what’s right. I am committed to this strike because I am committed to protecting the conditions under which graduate students teach and learning takes
place at NYU.

So I have this to say to the administration – you can take my pay, but you can’t take my pride. I’m proud to be a teacher. I’m proud to be a worker. I’m proud to be a union member.

The rally went great: over 1,000 people came to show their support. City Councilmember Robert Jackson reiterated the promise he issued during our December rally - that NYU would not get any cooperation from the City Council as long as they rebuff our union. Speaker of the Counil Christine Quinn told us that we have the full resources of the City Council until we win a contract. Quinn reminded the crowd that she helped GSOC win our first contract, and that she was also instrumental in settling the five month strike by Local 2110 members at MoMA in 2000. She pledged to do all she can to help us now from her new position of increased power.


Blogger specter of marx said...

Amy was AMAZING at the rally -- so inspirational! And the pink cap? Tres chic. Amy for President '08!!!

1/27/2006 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amy def. rocked. I'm not sure if I'm more impressed by her courage or her public speaking ability. Btw, check NYU Board Chairman Lipton's Wikepedia article :)

Is there anything eles that should have been included?

1/27/2006 11:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sexton seems to have an entry too:

1/28/2006 12:19 AM  

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