Sunday, April 30, 2006

More News Coverage of Thursday Rally

Over the weekend, an article reported on the GSOC rally and arrests this past Thursday in The Yale Daily News.

The Washington Square News and TMCnet have both reported that the GAC, the graduate student pupit government, has released a new draft of its proposal for a souped-up prom committee run by a "house of delagates." According to these reports, the new proposal includes a provision to "reasess" the workings of the plain in the 2009-2010 academic year, although that is the only mention of changes to the prior draft, and Nerds have not actually seen said proposal. In any case, the only reason why this is at all interesting is because the GAC (despite denying that this is what they were doing) timed the release of their "new" proposal to occur during the GSOC rally this past Thursday.

Finally, carried an article about the arrest of AAUP officials at the Thursday rally, supposedly the first event of its kind in the history of the organization.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

March for Peace and Justice

GSOC members joined other members of UAW Local 2110 and members of the NYU/New School Adjuncts' Union today in the March for Peace and Justice, a two-mile march down Broadway. Before the march got under way, there was a labor rally (perportedly the largest anti-war labor rally ever). Along with Roger Toussaint of the TWU and representatives from the SEIU, PSC-CUNY, and other local unions, a GSOC member spoke to the crowd about the fact that the War in Iraq and the War on Workers' Rights are both part Bush administration policy.

Nerds also want to announce that PSC-CUNY has reached a contract agreement with NYC, NY State, and the CUNY administration (pending ratification by members). This settlement, which includes important victories on key bargaining points desired by PSC-CUNY, came after working without a contract for over three years. PSC-CUNY members worked hard to keep political pressure high and held rallied right up until last week (though the Taylor Laws prevent them as public sector employees from striking). But if they could win their contract fight after over three years of effort, that gives me even more hope for us.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The News Media on Thursday's Rally

This is just what rolled in with today's press.

NYC Indiemedia, which syndicated their story from Nerds

The Columbia Spectator, the student newspaper from Columbia University

The Washington Square News article is particularly interesting, as despite the administration's continued claim that only a "tiny" percentage of GAs are still striking and that the strike is "no longer disruptive," undergraduates keep telling the WSN that the strike is disrupting their educations. They ought to remind the administration that NYU's core business is not making money but rather educating undergraduates, because then perhaps the administration would notice the disruption in the way that students and library patrons do.

Gothamist includes a great photo of strikers being lead off by the police, as well as links to other photos, with its brief article

The Chronicle of Higher Education (in a subscription-required article) and both carried articles focusing on the AAUP involvement.'s article features a discussion of potential AAUP plans to launch an academic boycott of NYU.

A report of the petition majority (which doesn't mention the rally) appears in People's Weekly World. Slightly less timely, but still worth noting, is an article in Lilith magazine.

Finally, and most excitingly, The New York Times placed a huge photo of the sit-in in today's Metro Section, along with an article about our struggle, yesterday's rally, and the success of the petition drive.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Great Day for GSOC

At 12 noon today, hundreds of GSOC members, faculty and undergraduate supporters, members of other graduate employee unions, and visiting dignitaries from across the labor movement met in Judson Memorial Church to hold a rally in celebration of the fact that GSOC/UAW 2110 has officially recertified its majority support among NYU graduate employees.

The program included a rousing speeches of support for GSOC by John Wilhelm (Co-President of Unite-HERE), Elizabeth Bunn (Secretary-Treasurer of the UAW), a pastor from Judson Memorial Church, faculty supporters from NYU and from the AAUP, and New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. Also, a letter of support from New York State Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Schumer urging the NYU administration to bargain a second contract was read. The total number of signatures gathered from members of the bargaining unit in each department were announced to show the breadth and depth of support from across the employee body.

Five GSOC members spoke about their involvement with GSOC and their own personal reasons for wanting a union: job security in the expository writing program, for example, and fairness in appointments for international graduate students in chemistry. A GSOC member from the economics department told the audience how economists study "the invisible hand of the market," but the only hand he's experienced in this struggle is the hand of John Sexton. A member of the original group who met in 1996 (!) to start the process of organizing for a graduate employee union at NYU, Kitty Krupat, presented a brief history of GSOC. And many of the speakers talked about how inspiring and dedicated the members of GSOC are.

One of the great things about the event is that a lot of people who have not been involved with GSOC in the past much or at all came out today to represent their departments and show their committment to winning a second contract. We had representatives from ever corner of campus, from psychology to physics, from classics to computer science.

After the rally was over, the assembled group gathered for a march across Washington Square to the Arch, a march that was filled with the sounds of chants, drums, and an acordian playing "Solidarity Forever." Many of the people sunbathing or dog-walking in the park stood still to watch the line of marchers streching all the way across the park from top to bottom. At the arch, we lined up on both sides of Washington Square North to watch as approximately 50 (more specific figures will have to wait for the news reports) held a sit-in in the street, blocking traffic until they were all arrested and carted off to jail to the sounds of applause and chanting from their fellow GSOCers.

It was a wonderful and inspiring event, a time for us to all celebrate our strength and our committment, and a time to show NYU that we are not going away. We will be here as long as it takes. And we are only growing stronger, louder, and more determined.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Thursday: GSOC Convention & Rally

The American Arbitration Association has certified that GSOC has gathered signatures from a majority of graduate employees at NYU. More signatures continue to be added to this list, and we have also gathered a large number of signatures from those who are not working this year but will be working next year.

The results of the petition drive will officially be announced, department by department, at a GSOC Convention to Call for Negotiations held tomorrow (Thursday), April 27, at Judson Memorial Church at Noon. All current and future GSOC members are invited to come and stand with their departments to see the breadth and depth of support for GSOC on this campus.

Following the convention at 1:00 PM, there will be a march to the Washington Square Arch, where supporters from around campus and from other universities in New York City will be gathered for a rally.

Nerds will be sure to tell our readers all about it after it happens.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


"Sextonism:" a disease in which the administration of a higher education institution engages in rediculous hyperbole in describing its accomplishments--something Sexton does every time he pretends that graduate assistants are "just students" rather than workers who provide an integral portion of the juice that makes NYU a desirable school for undergraduates as well as the research powerhouse it pretends to be.

Without us, professors would have much less time to apply for quadrillion-dollar grants and perform speaking engagements around the world--because it is graduate assistants who run the statistical calculations, perform the experiments, conduct the interviews, collect the prior literature, and write the textbook chapters. Without us, the undergraduate students would not be leaving NYU as broadly educated and well-prepared graduates--because it is us who teach 84.5% of classroom hours in general education courses, instruct the undergraduates how to put together proper sentances in foreign languages, fill in for full-time faculty by teaching their courses when they are away doing something "more important" for a week or a semester, help puzzled students work through material they don't understand, and grade long papers and essay exams so faculty do not feel compelled to grade only using multiple choice.

Graduate assistants provde the heart of what makes NYU great. Ignoring our work is an act of hyperbole about the accomplishments and skills of other employees at NYU, namely faculty.

Monday, April 24, 2006

WSN on the Strike

The Washington Square News highlighted GSOC in today's issue. There's an editorial reminding undergrads why they should support the strike (a point also reinforced by a new 'zine published by NYU Graduate/Undergraduate Solidarity). The WSN also ran coverage of the successful petition campaign and pointed out that NYU has given undergraduate free metrocards to help them get to classes which were moved off campus due to the strike.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Hunger Strike at the University of Miami

As Nerds first told you on April 11, nearly two weeks ago, janitors and students at the University of Miami are engaging in a hunger strike for union representation and recognition. Four hunger strikers have been hospitalized.

You can get news about the campaign, including video, when you go to this page inviting you to send a message to Donna Shalala asking her to exercise her authority as President of the University of Miami to intervene on behalf of the janitors.

Friday, April 21, 2006

News from Other Unions

Teaching assistants at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo voted this week to form a local of the AFT. Only 14 members of the 700-person bargaining unit voted against unionization. As we all know, the key issue in their union campaign is recognition, but workers are also seeking improvements in health care, particularly for women's health issues. And the news wire about the vote--which has been certified and made official--contains a line at the end about our strike!

Also today 32BJ, the union representing doormen and building maintnance workers in New York City narrowly avoided a strike when management agreed to many of their demands an hour after the strike deadline. Full health insurance and pension coverage will be preserved, and though wage increases are lower than workers would have liked, there is no wage freeze. Congratulations to 32BJ negotiators for doing such a good job! If workers had gone on strike, though, it would have meant two strikes on campus at once for the NYU administration.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Majority of Graduate Employees Show Their Support for a Union

A majority of graduate employees at NYU--over 500 of something less than 1,000 total--have signed a petition stating that even after a strike of almost six months, they still support GSOC and want the NYU administration to negotiate a second contract. This support is broad across the entire body of employees. In fact, a majority of workers in a majority of departments have signed. In addition, a large number of graduate students who are not yet employees or who are former employees have also signed.

The petition reads as follows:
"We the undersigned want a union contract for the work we perform as graduate employees of NYU. Over the years a majority of graduate employees has consistently demonstrated support for our union, GSOC/UAW Local 2110, including in the last year signing an open letter calling for collective contract negotiations, striking, picketing and attending demonstrations.

As we look to the next academic year, we call upon the NYU administration to resolve the campus conflict by respecting the will of the majority and by negotiating an enforceable second contract with our bargaining representative, GSOC/UAW Local 2110."

This is terrific news, as it provides direct evidence to counter the administration's claims that no one cares anymore, that graduate employees at New York University deeply care about the conditions of our work and will keep doing what it takes to get a contract, as long as it takes.

The Strike, on Video

Click the video to activate

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Carrots and Sticks

Early in the strike, the NYU administration offered a carrot to those workers who were most exploited at NYU: TAs teaching more than one stand-alone course per semester were given a reduction to one stand-alone course maximums--in the hopes that these workers would go back to work greatful for this important but insufficient change. But it turns out that this change may not be applied equally, and may only be temporary, particularly for the TAs in the Expository Writing program.

The Columbia Spectator published an article yesterday about the need for a graduate employee union there and the connections between the Columbia unionization effort, administrative anti-union tactics, and GSOC.

Monday, April 17, 2006

UVa Students Arrested

17 students at UVa were arrested for staging a peaceful sit-in asking for a living wage to be paid to university employees. This comes after they had been denied food, internet access, and access to academic and religious books over the course of the sit-in. The president of the university justified these arrests by saying that they were for the "protection of the protesters" and because "they were protesting at cost to themselves and their families over the holiday weekend."

Saturday, April 15, 2006

More on Immigration Rally

People's Weekly World newspaper online carried an article about the Monday immigration rally featuring a quote from GSOC member and featured speaker Orlanda Lara.

Friday, April 14, 2006

UVA Student Sit-In for a Living Wage

Students at the University of Virginia are currently engaging in a sit-in to demand a living wage for university staff. The sit-in is already three days old, and campus police are barring students from receiving food or internet connections. More information is available on the UVA Living Wage website.

To show your support for these students and staff, you can sign a petition urging the university to raise wages, and you can also send an email through the UnionVoice website to university administration officials.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

GSOC Featured in ASA Publication

A breif story about the strike appears in the most recent issue of the American Sociological Association Section on Labor and Labor Movements Newsletter. To read, select the March 2006 issue--the article is on the third page.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Random News Updates

WSN coverage of the Immigration Rights Rally.

And in the world of academic labor struggles beyond NYU, janitors at the University of Miami, accompanied by students, are engaging in a hunger strike for union recognition.

Finally, an odd tidbit: NYU's involvement with some not-quite-charter school, for which they will provide student teachers, tutors, etc.

Coverage of the Immigration Rights Rally

From amNY, an article which mentions the presence of NYU strikers at the rally.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Estamos Aqui y no Vamos...

Today, a large number of GSOCers joined thousands of other New Yorkers at the rally for immigrants' rights at City Hall, one of 129 similar marches/rallies accross the United States in opposition to HR 4437 (see Nerds' prior discussion of the bill). It was an amazing experience hearing so many diverse immigrant voices displaying together their dedication to working hard in the United States; to giving their children a great future. A number of local and state elected officials and many, many union workers and union leaders were also on hand to express their solidarity with the movement for immigrants' rights.

One of the most inspiring moments for us GSOCers was the speech given by Orlando Lara, who described his own journey across the Rio Grande to the United States at sixth months old as well as his involvement with GSOC. Lara connected our struggle for recognition with the struggle of all immigrant workers, documented and undocumented, for the change for jobs with justice.

Before going to the rally, some GSOC member handed out fliers about the strike in front of NYU Trustee Martin Lipton's law firm, Wachtell Lipton Rosen Katz, the site of a trustees meeting today--and even managed to leaflet the Trustees' waiting limos.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sexton Town Hall on Tuesday

I, at least, was unable to attend Sexton's "Town Hall with Graduate Students" this past Tuesday. It sounds like it was a pretty interesting experience, but I'll have to let The Washington Square News and The Weapon of Class Instruction update you.

I am not sure I understand why Sexton keeps having these meetings. They seem to highlight his fundamental weaknesses and give us a tool for building solidarity and generating energy and outrage.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Immigration Law and Higher Education

Protests have spread across the country in response to proposed immigration legislation currently pending in congress. This bill and related legislation would have dramatic impacts on higher education, including revoking funding for universities who admit undocumented students, making it a felony to overstay a student visa, and making it more difficult to adjust status from student to immigrant. This legislation would even make it possible to prosecute foreign students who do not maintain the legally mandated course load (something which we all know happens at NYU because of bureaucratic snafus every semester). Finally, any American citizen who is found "guilty" of helping an undocumented migrant could also be found guilty of a felony--even if the assistance was purely humanitarian (and since we don't often ask for proof of citizenship before offering food, first aid, or helpful conversation, there is a good chance this provision could turn into a restriction on helping anyone who looks or sounds Latino/a or Asian).

Let's just imagine the impact this will have on higher education. Students without documents, even those who spent most of their lives in the United States, will no longer be able to attend college--even at the inflated tuition rates many now pay. International students in the U.S. on student visas would have to worry about being imprisoned on felony charges and later deported merely for taking one credit too few or for needing an extra semester to finish a dissertation while the bureaucratic wheels turn in the INS. American students, faculty, and staff who help out by providing a couch or a warm meal to their visa-overstay friends could get thrown in the brig too. It seems to me that this legislation would either cause the number of international students seeking an education in the United States to fall precipitously (making their own educations and those of their classmates suffer), or else will result in a dampening of intellectual curiosity among international students as they rush to get their degree as quickly as possible to as to avoid these draconian penalities.

Riled up yet? There are protests in towns and cities across the U.S. for you to join. In New York, you can join New York City public school students as they walk out of class at Noon on Monday, April 10th, meet in Union Square from Noon until 2, and rally at City Hall from 3 to 7. The organizers ask that attendies where white to show their solidarity and encourage students to wear signs saying "A10" during the morning before the walkout to show their intent to participate.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

NYU: For Rich People Only?

Today's has an article about our strike which includes interviews with a number of GSOC members. The article points out the importance of the political support GSOC is building from local and state politicians and quotes Richard Boris, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, at City University of New York’s Hunter College, as saying that our persistance coupled with this political support has a good chance of winning us a contract. The article also quotes Elizabeth Bunn, secretary-treasurer of the UAW, talking about the fact that our fight is a national fight.

Nerds think that the tone of the article feels a lot like the tone of the strike right now. We are tired--often exhausted. That makes us sound depressed sometimes. But we are still excited about what we are doing for ourselves and for graduate employees across the country. And we keep on beleiving that some combination of our persistance and our political support will help us win. Our strike may be the longest strike of graduate employees in history, but you still never know when you will win until you do.

Meanwhile, NYU has been busy finding more people to screw over: The Washington Square News reports that NYU is increasing the cost of tuition by 5.3% (the fifth year in which tuition increases are over 5%. This increase brings the annual total cost of tuition, fees, room, and board (a number which does not include books, incidental expenses, travel, etc.) to almost $47,000. The WSN also reports that NYU is the university at which students are most disatissfied with financial aid. This is all happening while schools like Harvard and other elite colleges are guaranteeing full tuition scholarships for low-income students, while other colleges and universities are making an unprecidented committmment to ensure access for poor and working-class students by granting that these students' financial needs will be completely met. seems like NYU wants to make sure it is a bastion for the rich and the privilaged, from undergraduates all the way up through Ph.D. students. Well, we aren't going to let them.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Sexton at the UN, Again

Yesterday, John Sexton spoke at the United Nations for the second time in 2 months. This appearance was sponsored by the Institute for International Education, was part of a conference on "best practices in internationalizing the campus," and Sexton himself spoke about creating a global campus.

As usual, Sexton does not seem the best choice to speak about building an international vision when he has worked consistantly all year to undermine the educations of international graduate students NYU.

Gothamist pointed out NYU's lack of ethics today, in the context of the antiquities gift/scandal. NYU just keeps getting the bad press from all sides. You'd think they'd want to avoid looking so bad all the time.

In any case, it's been awhile since Nerds have asked for your donations to help feed, clothe, and house striking workers. Donations of any amount are welcome; big ones especially so.