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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story was printed from Washington Square News.
Site URL:

Someone should tell GSOC that the strike is over
by Mike Devlin
March 30, 2006

NYU is crippled.
Walk into the Silver Center, past the raging picket lines, and you’ll instantly become a social pariah. Professors don’t teach anymore — they’re afraid of disgruntled laborers wielding Molotov cocktails. John Sexton fled New York; he’s living in exile in Hoboken. The graduate assistants are on strike.

We thought the NYPD would crush their spirits, break their picket lines and deflate their inflatable rat. They didn’t. The police — union members themselves — honk horns in solidarity and carry picketing graduate assistants on their shoulders whenever they’re tuckered out. Sanitation workers stopped picking up trash, and the city smells worse than ever. MTA employees ditched subway cars deep underground, trapping hordes of commuters far below New York.

Susan Valentine, GSOC spokeswoman, wrote a scathing reply (“Devlin’s rant against GSOC is just hyperbolic absurdity,” Feb. 1) to an earlier piece I wrote criticizing her union (“GSOC’s hypocritical hyperboles frustrating,” Jan. 30). I traveled home. Exile is all I can ask for. I needed a good cry.

Sometimes I wonder if GSOC meetings entail sitting around in a circle, holding hands and dreaming up alternate universes like this one. If so, the United Auto Workers is certainly encouraging these whimsical fantasies.

In the March 21 article “Central UAW to step up GSOC support,” Julie Kushner, the UAW New York subregional director, said, “You might as well negotiate with the [GAs], because they’re not going to go away.”

Maybe Kushner hasn’t visited NYU lately. Because if she had, she would know that the graduate assistants do go away — for example, they go away early for lunch on Fridays. They go away at night. Most days, I don’t see a single picketer in front of Bobst. Even the raw winter cold kept picketers from their righteous cause.

“With the weather getting warmer, prospective students visiting campus and the semester underway, GSOC is working right now to increase its visibility on campus,” Valentine said (“GSOC ‘springs’ into action,” March 23).

Looks like they’ve been going somewhere. I think it might be “away.”

But say visibility does increase, the temperature warms up and striking GAs slather on some sunscreen and picket. Who cares? Those on strike aren’t teaching anymore — where’s the disruption? It’s not a job action, guys. You don’t teach here anymore.

Strikes are effective because they hurt a company’s bottom line, not because they pester the CEO with drum beats and snarky slogans. Saying that increased visibility will bring John Sexton to his knees is like arguing that psychotic “Bush is a Nazi” protesters in Union Square are going to successfully impeach the president.

The graduate assistant strike has become a silly charade, and everyone knows it but the GAs themselves. And it makes me sad. I’m glad that NYU didn’t give in — the graduate assistants don’t deserve a union contract for reasons that have been articulated for months. But I hate to watch American labor piss away its integrity over a handful of elite doctoral students who feel entitled to more. The UAW is using resources that could fuel Democratic congressional campaigns to pay GAs who left their classrooms — get your priorities straight, labor.

Rather than increase support, the UAW should revoke it. Cut your losses and find another battle without the image problems this one presents. Maybe some GAs will salvage their reputations within academia. By refocusing their energy, GA organizers might internally reform NYU and resolve their grievances without further corporatizing the university by involving the UAW in its governance. End it now. Teach us again.

And if quitting really offends your progressive sensibilities that much, think of it this way: Without this strike to fund, the UAW can give more money to actual auto workers. They might need it a little more.

4/10/2006 1:06 AM  
Blogger Eric Prindle said...

If this guy thinks that the Democratic Party would make an efficient use of the UAW's money, he is living in his own wacky fantasy world. The Democratic Party pisses away money like it's, well, piss. If the Republicans started openly advocating for a Christian dictatorship in this country, the Democrats would still spend all their money on TV ads crudely juxtaposing various Republican candidates with Tom DeLay.

4/10/2006 1:34 AM  
Blogger Bread and Roses said...

Except for in the (dwindling) manufacturing sector, strikes no longer have their most important effects by slowing or stopping production. Service-sector workers, like NYU GAs and like the Manhattan doormen who may strike this month do not really stop production when we go out on strike. The picket line is an important part of our effort (and the author of the WSN article probably doesn't see it because he is not in front of Bobst during picket line hours). But it is not what will win for us.

What will win for us is hurting NYU's bottom line--through political pressure from the New York City Council and from Albany, through litigation and lawmaking that limits NYU's ability to get state money or engage in real estate development, and through personal pressure on NYU trustees.

But we maintain our picket line because we are on strike, and picket lines are synonymous with strikes.

4/10/2006 12:23 PM  

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