Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Political Pressures and Real Estate

A Letter to the Editor in Sunday's New York Times:

In "Pomp and Altered Circumstances" (May 14), Michael J. Agovino notes that New York University is no longer the commuter school he attended 15 years ago. Most of N.Y.U.'s undergraduates now come from out of state, necessitating what Mr. Agovino calls the university's "relentless expansion," replacing historic buildings with architecturally lifeless dorms that dwarf surrounding neighborhoods and infuriate neighbors.

However, N.Y.U.'s plans to engulf more real estate may be stymied by politicians who have pledged support for the university's striking graduate teaching assistants. Graduate assistants normally teach about 75 percent of classes for the undergraduates housed in those outsize dorms, but have been on strike since November 2005 after N.Y.U. refused to negotiate a new contract with their elected union.

If Senators Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, State Senators Thomas Duane, Eric Schneiderman and Dale Volker and other lawmakers can translate their support for the union into action, N.Y.U. may have less luck when it next applies for building permits, zoning variances, financing and other forms of public assistance.

David Schleifer
East Village
The writer is a graduate student at N.Y.U.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

All About Ehrenreich

An article in The Hook, a weekly newspaper from Charlottesville, VA, has published a profile of Barbara Ehrenreich in which Ehrenreich had to reschedule her interview because she was on her way out the door to come speak at our rally.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Catherine Stimpson: Feminist? Or Reactionary?

Nerds, along with the rest of GSOC, tend to save our personal take-downs for John Sexton, NYU president and cheif union-buster, and the billionaires for union-busting who are the NYU trustees. But these are not the only members of the NYU administration who deserve to be taken to task. Like Sexton (who contradicts the Catholic teachings he supposedly holds dear by refusing to acknowledge our right to bargain collectively), Catharine Stimpson is an NYU administrator who has bought into the power structure she is a part of and has thus become an intellectual hypocrite.

Stimpson, some readers may recall, coupled her general distaste for academic unionism in a June 2004 Chronicle of Higher Education article with the observation that "when unions arise and thrive, institutions may have given them reason to do so." GSOCers have seen Stimpson's name on many of the open letters and fake-union proposals that have crossed our desks in the last year, but we have not seen her stand up and admit what it is that NYU has done to give us "reason to do so." She also admitts the truth of many of the critiques that GSOCeers make of the contemporary university in general and NYU specificially--such as the fact that universities are factory-like and teach simply to get tuition dollars.

So why is Stimpson not a defender, not even a grudging tolerator like Alan Sokal, but rather a dedicated member of the union-busting administrator's sqaud?

Well, let's start with her background and see what we can figure out. Stimpson went to college at Bryn Mawr after growing up in Washington State. Her own stories of her past suggest that as a young person, she was interested in exploring the new, the radical, and ther rebellious. She has always been interested in interdisciplinary studies and in questions of power, and after earning her undergraduate degree she went on to earn degrees at Cambridge and Columbia. Her professional experience prior to coming to NYU has included stints at the MacArthur Foundation Fellows Program, Rutgers University, Barnard College, and a term as president of the the Modern Language Association.

Nerds don't see any clues here. Work in women's studies usually sensitizes one to issues of power and privilege. So why doesn't Stimpson get it?

Let's turn to her own words. (The quote is from her chapter in Women in Higher Education, edited by Glazer, Bensimon, and Townsend).

"First, women's studies has sought a particular ethic that values the fredom and the moral equality of all those who seek education and of those who offer it. Women's studies has promised that such an ethic will enhance education, not smash it to peices. Second, women's studies has sought to alter institutions so that they embody such an ethic....Third, women's studies has sought to change consciousness--that of individuals and that of institutions....It has meant a constant, serious, deepening awareness of sets of problems and ideas about women....Women's studies confronts vociferous forces that wish to efface some of its energetic deeds, that wish to crib, cabin, and confine its energizing future. Women's studies has shown its capacity for wild patience, a capacity necesary for survival and moral rejuvenation...."

Let's rewrite that, talking about academic labor issues instead of academic feminism:
The academic labor movement has sought a particular ethic that values the freedom of association and the moral equality of all those who seek education and of those who offer it. The academic labor movement has shown time and again that this ethic will enhance education, not smash it to peices. The academic labor movement has also sought to alter institutions of higher education so that they emody such an ethic. It has also sought to change the consciousness of individuals and institutions so that we all understand that work is being done within the ivory walls. The academic labor movement has meant a constant, serious, deepinging awarness of sets of problems and ideas about work in higher education. Academic labor confronts vociferous forces that wish to efface some of its energetic deeds, that wish to crib, cabin, and confince its energizing future. Academic labor has shown its capacity for wild patience, a capacity necessary for survival and moral rejuvanation, in spite of the continual crushing pressure placed on it by administrators and elites that include the writer of the words this paragraph is based on.

So Stimpson is clearly capable of understanding oppression and the fight against it within the academic system. But she chooses to ignore her own understanding of power and knowledge. She chooses to maintain her position as a union-buster.

Nerds ask again--why? And the only answer is that Stimpson wants to keep her cushy job and her cushy office and make a lot of money. A real women's studies scholar would understand the ways in which collective organization is better for representing the interests of academic women. A real women's studies scholar would understand that with sexual harrassment and discrimination of all kinds still affecting women across NYU constantly, an outside grievance procedure is necesary to protect women from employment abuses--particularly given the fact that the grievance procedure supervised by Stimpson's own office is clearly a joke. A real women's studies scholar would see GSOC as a vital attempt for women AND men to stand together for justice, for freedom, and for real moral equality. A real women's studies scholar would not bust unions to increase her own paycheck.

Stimpson is a dean and a member of the power structure now. She is no longer a real women's studies scholar.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Anti-Union Faculty: Your Activities Will Come to Haunt You

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Book Prize Is Yanked From Yale Professors Over Author's Role in Graduate-Student Labor Dispute

By JENNIFER HOWARD

Two Yale University professors, Ian Shapiro and Michael J. Graetz, expected to receive a 2006 Sidney Hillman Award on Tuesday at a ceremony in New York City. Instead, they got phone calls on Tuesday morning telling them that the judges had reversed the decision to honor the professors' book on the repeal of the estate tax, Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight Over Taxing Inherited Wealth.

"I was stunned," said Mr. Shapiro, a professor of political science. "I'd been about to get in the car to go to the city to pick up the award."

Mr. Graetz echoed his co-author's shock. "It came out of the blue for me," he said. "Obviously, I was disappointed."

The telephone calls came from Bruce Raynor, president of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which sponsors the awards. The foundation is a project of the labor union Unite Here, of which Mr. Raynor is general president. The awards and the foundation are named for Sidney Hillman, who was a leading worker-rights activist in the New Deal era and founding president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, a precursor of Unite Here.

First presented in 1950, the awards honor "journalists, writers, and public figures who pursue social justice and public policy for the common good," according to the foundation's Web site.

Mr. Raynor told the authors that the last-minute reversal had been based on information that came to light about Mr. Shapiro's dealings with members of GESO, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, in its efforts to organize a graduate-student union at Yale in the 1990s. Unite Here has been involved with GESO's continuing union drive at Yale.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Raynor cited allegations of "unfair labor practices" and unspecified "threats against graduate students" by Mr. Shapiro.

"It flies in the face of Sidney Hillman's beliefs and his life," he said, "to present the award to someone who had been actively engaged in resisting union-organization attempts by graduate teaching assistants to join Sidney Hillman's union."

Mr. Raynor added, "We wish we had had this information before the award announcement went out. We regret it, and we certainly don't seek to embarrass Professor Shapiro."

Mr. Graetz and Mr. Shapiro pointed out that the book, which was published last year by Princeton University Press, does not address labor organizing. "There is no connection to GESO at all," Mr. Graetz said. "This book has absolutely nothing to do with the graduate students."

Mr. Shapiro also defended his dealings with graduate students over the years. "In the 1990s, when I was director of graduate studies in political science, I told a group of our students that I thought they had every right to try and form a union," he said, "but in my view it was not a good idea and not a good use of their time. ... I've never threatened anyone in my life, and I'm generally supportive of unions."

The move toward rethinking the award began last week. On Thursday, May 18, the Hillman Foundation ran an advertisement in The New York Times listing the 2006 winners in several categories: book, magazine, broadcast, photojournalism, newspaper, and blog, a new category this year. Mr. Shapiro's and Mr. Graetz's book was listed as the winner in the book category.

Although Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Graetz had written "an excellent book," Mr. Raynor told The Chronicle, the decision came down to "more than just the words on the page."

Once news of the award got out, Mr. Raynor said, his office received dozens of complaints "from numerous current and former graduate teaching assistants who'd been involved in these campaigns."

"We got deluged by this information that we did not know," he said. "I brought it to the attention of the judges."

One of those judges, Harold Meyerson, editor at large of The American Prospect, said that Mr. Raynor called him on Monday and said, "Harold, we have a problem." Mr. Raynor then told him about the objections to the award but left the final decision to him and the other judges, who include Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, and Sheryl WuDunn, an editor at The New York Times.

Mr. Meyerson read a reporter the statement he delivered Tuesday night at the awards ceremony. "Normally judges evaluate the dancer, not the dance," he said. "What we tried to do in the excruciatingly limited time available to us was to gauge the severity and credibility of the allegations. ... A crucial factor for us was that the National Labor Relations Board in the region issued a complaint against several Yale professors, and Professor Shapiro most particularly, for these actions."

As Mr. Meyerson and Mr. Shapiro both noted, the labor board never adjudicated the graduate students' complaint because their labor action failed to meet certain legal criteria.

"There was never any hearing on the merits of the complaint," Mr. Shapiro said. "People like me never got to come into a hearing and say, What's the evidence that I threatened anyone?"

Mr. Meyerson said he had consulted with a friend who was a labor lawyer, who told him that "such a complaint would not have been issued if the NLRB attorneys had not found the claims to be credible and meritorious." In the end, Mr. Meyerson and the other judges concluded that "Professor Shapiro's actions rose to a level that required the rethinking of the award."

"What we came down to was that the book was eminently qualified to win many other awards," he said, but did not fit the criteria of the Hillman Prize.

"We regret of course that this highly improbable situation ever occurred," Mr. Meyerson told the awards audience. "I'm acutely aware that for all of you this comes rather like a pickle in the middle of a chocolate éclair."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Downtown Newpaper: Wrong, Right Out of the Gate

Downtown, a brand new free newspaper covering lower Manhattan, devoted the cover and much of its first issue to coverage of NYU, including a large article about the May 11 alternative commencement rally accomanied by a phot of the Sexton puppet. Nerds can not post a link to the coverage, as the publication does not appear to have a website yet. The non-GSOC coverage focuses on NYU's desirability, prestige, real estate obnoxiousness (including a plan to build graduate housing in the outer boroughs), and high sticker price.

The GSOC article, however, is quite poor and factually innacurate, and I would urge Nerds readers to write to the author, Edward-Issac Dovere and to the editor, and correct his misconceptions. The article appears below, and futher below that Nerds provide talking points for writing to Dovere.


Moments after NYU finished its 174th university-wide commencement May 11, another commencement got under way.

This mock-commencement rally was organized by graduate students who have been refusing to teach since last November in protest of the university's refusal to negotiate a new contract with higher wages for teaching.

Currently, graduate students are given a minimum $19,000 per year stiped in addition to tuition remittance and health benefits. The university has already decided to increase this stiped by $1,00 in each of the next three years. But as at several other universities around the country, some of these students have sought to unionize and join the United Auto Workers.

"We are leading America, we are leading NYU, and we will lead it to a better place than it is now," said Julia Schleck, a leader of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee who was awarded her Ph.D. in English this year and will soon leave for her new position.

These graduate students have drawn support from prominent local labor leaders, including the Transit Workers Union, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), AFL-CIO and UNITE HERE, who tend to view graduate students as a potential area to grow the labor movement.

Representatives from these groups constituted at least as many of the people at the rally as NYU students did.

While most labor leader speakers stressed a general committment to workers' rights, the UFT's Randi Weingarten said that her union would use its force across the state to encourage guidance counselors to make prospective college students aware of the situation at NYU. Putting pressure on the school by possibly influencing undergraduate applications and enrollment may help leverage results, Weingarten said.

"We're going to make sure, as teacher should, that we educate everyone about what's going on here in Greenwich Village," she said.

Also speaking at the rally was Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch, among other books critical of current American labor practices.

"When a university disrespects its teachers, it disrespects learning. And when it disrespects learning, it is no longer an institution of higher learning," she said. "It is a real estate empire that has acheived non-profit status by offering some courses and doing some research on the side."

The university disagrees, arguing that teaching is a component of doctoral training, not labor in the traditional sense.

"Students are students, not employees," argued Paul Boghossian, a former chair of the Philosophy Department who has been one of the people dispatched by NYU to represent the university position.

"A student would regard it as a liability that he [Nerds interrupts this message to remind our readers that in Boghossian's old-fashioned world of graduate education, all graduate students are indeed male] could go through five or six years of doctoral training and not have to have any experience teaching," he said. "Any well structured program simply has to have that as part of its curriculum."

Boghossian said that it was principle, not funding, which was the determining factor.

"If we had all the money in the world, so we could just do away with any graduate student teaching and have all aspects of teaching in the class done by people who were expressly employed for that purpose, we still wouldn't do away with the graduate student teaching assistant program that we currently have," he said. "That would make us uncompetative."



So what's wrong with this article? Lots of things.
1. Members of GSOC have not gone on strike for a pay raise. If that was what we wanted, we got that simply by insinuating the threat of a strike. Instead, we want a contract that provides for collective bargaining over our working conditions and a fair greivance procedure with access to outside arbitration.

2. We have not "sought" to "unionize and join the United Auto Workers." We are in fact already members of the United Auto Workers who worked under a union contract with NYU for four years. We are simply asking to maintain the status quo.

3. We have not been "refusing to teach...in protest," we have been engaging in a labor action, in other words a strike.

4. NYU graduate students are in fact not required to teach in order to get their degrees. They are requried to teach in order to get paid their salaries. Many graduate students, depending on the discipline, earn money through outside fellowships, internal awards that do not require work, administrative assistantships, or research assistanships. Many never set foot in the classroom. In addition, many GSOC members are master's students, and others are doctoral candidates who are working in feilds entirely unrelated to their training. Finally, NYU would be a much more competative university if we could take Boghossian up on his suggestion to fully fund all of us without having to work. If I'd been offered that deal, maybe I'd be done with grad school already.

Nerds remind you to write to the Downtown paper and tell them that there is no point in reading their paper if they couldn't even fact-check the very first issue. Find the contact info above.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Nelson and Buck on the Importance of the GSOC Striggle

In insidehighered.com today, on the court date of those arrested for sitting down in the street on April 27, Cary Nelson and Jane Buck of the AAUP write about why they chose to get arrested with GSOC members. They provide a couple of reasons.

First, they point to the Republican NLRB reversal of our right to unionize and NYU's use of that as an excuse to avoid renegotiating a contract, even though nothing prevents them from doing so. Second, they point to the fact that university administrations across the country will look to NYU's example in choosing how to respond to graduate employees' quest for better working conditions--and until we win, they will chose to do so in ways "in ways the NLRB would consider flatly illegal in cases where it accepted jurisdiction." And this, to Nelson and Buck, will herald the beginning of a turn to even poorer working conditions in higher education than ever before. Nelson and Buck beleive that civil disobedience such as that engaged in by GSOC members in April is the necesary response to this trend.

Incidently, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday that GESO at Yale has been successful at convincing Yale to divest from the Corrections Corporation of America, a prison company accused of abusing inmates in its prisons. Yale, however, refuses to acknowledge GESO's role in this matter. (For those who don't have access to the Chronicle, coverage is also available at Reuters and The Yale Daily News.

Monday, May 22, 2006

News Roundup from the AFT

According to On Campus, the bi-monthly magazine from the American Federation of Teachers' higher education divisions, graduate assistants at Temple University have been rallying for a new contract. The biggest bargaining point is health care--coverage for a worker and one dependant can cost a third of a worker's annual salary. The article also reports that Temple GAs filed a successful greivance against the university for its refusal to pay health care costs for summer workers.

Graduate employees at the University of Illinois-Springfield have also voted to unionize (with only one vote cast against unionizing). The keystone of that fight is that Springfield GAs, who tend to be older and are more likely to have children, make $4,000 a year less than their collegues at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus.

Another article highlights the difficulties graduate employees face in giving birth and finding childcare without paid parental leave, clock extensions, and subsidies for child care expenses.

The magazine also reports on stories previously covered by Nerds: the GET-UP report on the casualization of the academic workforce; the successful unionization vote at Western Michigan University; and the unionization campaign at Vermont College.

And on the NYU front: a breif note in the technology section highlights the presence of the GSOC campaign on Wikipedia--it quotes the page on Sexton, reporting that it has experiences more than 100 revisions since our strike began. (Nerds would point out the readers that since GSOC is not affiliated with the AFT, they must indeed beleive that the technological battlefront of our campaign is newsworthy--cool!)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ask Your Senators to Support GSOC!

New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton have written an open letter to the United States Senate, asking their colleagues to sign on to a letter to John Sexton calling for negotations between NYU and our union. If you are a resident of any state besides New York, you can help GSOC by calling or emailing your senators (and urging others to do so as well) and asking them to sign this letter.

The text of the Dear Colleague letter from Schumer and Clinton to the senate is below, followed by the sign-on letter to Sexton.


Dear Colleague:

As you may know, New York University in New York and the Graduate Student Organizing Commitee of the United Automobile Workers (GSOC/UAW Local 2110) have been engaged in ongoing contact dispute for over a year now. Both sides are currently at an impasse in negotiations.

We have long recognized and supported the rights of workers to organize and acheive contracts via a good faith negotiation process. We ask your support today as we urge New York University and UAW to once again work in good faith to reach a collective bargaining agreement on behalf of graduate student workers at NYU. It is clear the University, union employees, students and the City of New York stand to benefit greatly if an agreement is reached and a resolution to this impasse is resolved efficiently and fairly.

Please join us in calling on both parties to come to an agreement in a timely manner. Please contact Bridget Petruczok on Senator Schumer's staff at 202-224-7401 or Chris Falvo on Senator Clinton's staff at 212-688-9609 by May 26 to sign on the letter or if you have any further questions. Thank you for your support on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer    Hillary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Senator (NY)    U.S. Senator (NY)



Dear President Sexton:

As long-time supporters of both higher education and the right of workers to organize, we write to urge New York University (NYU) to engage in good faith negotiations with its graduate employees, GSOC/UAW Local 2110, for a collective bargaining agreement.

NYU is a valued and important institution that does much to add to New York City's prestige, intellectual capital and vibrancy. Similarly, we believe that graduate employees are an essential part of the university community - they perform significant work for the University and deserve to have their work valued accordingly.

We understand that a 2005 NLRB decision, holding that universities are not obligated under the National Labor Relations Act to bargain with the representatives of graduate employees, has stalled negotiations. However, we also understand that nothing in that decision or the law prevents an employer from maintaining a collective bargaining relationship with GSOC/UAW.

GSOC/UAW Local 2110 and NYU have successfully conducted negotiations in the past. It is our hope that the parties will once again enter into discussions that conclude with a mutually beneficial contract.

We look forward to hearing from you in the near future.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer    Hillary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Senator (NY)    U.S. Senator (NY)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

More Alternative Commencement News Coverage

People's Weekly World has a good article quoting Toussaint and Sweeny, along with GSOC members.

The Villager's article on NYU's commencement also includes coverage of the rally, though you do have to scroll down to get to it.

Nerds have also heard a rumer that the rally was featured on WBAI radio, and we know that the Fox News camera present at the rally shot footage and broadcast it, but we can't find links to any of it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Inconsistency Over Employee Status

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this week (article only available with a subscription), in an article on the Federal Office of Civil Rights, that the Justice department has threatened to sue Southern Illinois University for employment discrimination because they had fellowship programs restricted to women and/or members of minority groups (since disbanded under threat of the suit).

So why are Nerds blogging about this? Well, assuming that The Graduate Dean's Fellowship at SIU is one of the descendants of these prior programs, given its focus on "traditionally underserved individuals," this whole case brings to light the inconsistancy with which the Bush administration views the employment status of graduate employees.

Like our MacCracken awards at NYU, these fellowships offer some time without employment requirements, but during the fall and spring of the second year of the fellowship, fellowship recipients are required to spend 20 hours per week in teaching or research as "assigned and supervised" by the department. Other employment is prohibited, and the fellowship provides a monthly stipend, along with tuition remission.

So according to the Justice department, these graduate employees are workers. According to the NLRB, they would not be (though as this is a public university, the NLRB would not have jurisdiction here). Of course, it is not a suprise that the Bush administration chooses to consider graduate employees workers when they can use this fact to undermine affirmative action but does not when they can use this to undermine affirmative action. But it is still worth noting that there are times when even the federal government recognizes that we are indeed employees.

(Incidently, graduate assistants at SIU are currently working on a unionization campaign. They have conducted a successful card drive and will vote on union representation in September. One of their key issues is healthcare.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

News Coverage of "Alternative Commencement"

Workers World's "On the Picket Line" section updates readers about the re-certification of majority, as well as the April 27th and May 11th rallies.

The Washington Square News highlighted the great speakers at last Thursday's rally, and interestingly all John Union-Buster Beckman could muster is that he thinks the rally was "out of step with the joyous rhythms of commencement day." Hmmm, I though we had a lot of rhythm (particularly when The Ride was playing) and that the rally was pretty joyus...I guess Beckman was not there and therefore has no idea what he is talking about.




Incidently, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the average salary for Cheif Legal Officers at Doctoral/Research Extensive universities like NYU is $170,000. Nerds will have to see if we can find out how much higher the CLO at NYU's salary is.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

GSOCers at Alumni Weekend

This weekend, GSOC members handed out fliers to alumni visiting NYU for their class reunions. We got a lot of support from alums who were disgusted by NYU's union-busting tactics--many of whom had not previously been aware of the strike. GSOC asked alumni to write to Sexton telling him that they would withhold their annual alumni donations until such time as the NYU administration agrees to bargain a second contract. We also asked alumni to send their donations to the GSOC Strike Fund, and Nerds figure this is as good a time as any to post our monthly solicitation message. So if you have some spare cash, donate to the strike fund. Even though the semester is over, there are GSOC members who have been locked out of jobs for this summer and for next fall and who still need all the help they can get to pay their bills.



In the random news relating to NYU category, there are two interesting articles in this weekend's press roundup.

First, the Daily News reports that Bloomberg's daughter Georgina, who is a top-ranked show-jumper with plans to compete in the 2008 Olympics, enrolls in one semester's worth of courses per year at NYU in an "individualized study program." Now, this is nothing against Georgina, who is after all training horses 12 hours a day and has good reason to need a non-traditional program of study, but it is interesting that in NYU's quest to compete with the Ivy Leagues, it still offers course equivilancy for non-academic experiences and other accomodations for the children of the rich and famous which are generally more common in less selective institutions.

Second, writer Michael Agovino writes in today's New York Times, writes about the changes in NYU since he was an undergraduate there, 15 years ago. To Agovino, as to so many of us, NYU is no longer a "'New York' University," but rather "an enclave of downtown elitism." The article is worth a read.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Save the Internet Campaign

Congress is considering a law which could abandon one of the founding principals behind the Internet--Net Neutrality. This law would allow ISP providers to limit access and accessability to sites that they don't want their customers to see--whether because they want to make more money or because they don't like the political message the sites are sending. This law, if passed, would make it much harder for sites sending any alternative message to get their voices heard. To learn more or to join the campaign to preserve Net Neutrality, go to Save The Internet.

What would the end of Net Neutrality mean for sites like this one? It would give NYU, Yale, Columbia, and the other private universities who want to bust unions a pass at making Nerds hard to reach for their own internal viewers. But if we give universities the benefit of the doubt and pretend that they do still value academic freedom, that does not mean we are off scott-free. A large percentage of NYU students connect to the internet through 3rd party ISPs, either because they live in an apartment-style dorm without dedicated ethernet connections or because they live off campus. And most community members and concerned observers are of course using commercial ISPs. NYU could surely work out a deal to limit access. Or alternatively, the anti-union forces that run many commercial ISPs (such as Verizon) could choose to block or limit all union-related content.

Concerned? Sign the petition. Call your congresspeople. Tell your friends. And if you have a blog or website, join the blog campaign.


Save the Net

Sometimes, There is No Title

The arrest of AAUP President Cary Nelson at the April 27th GSOC rally is mentioned in an Insidehighered.com article on an unrelated topic.

And according to the Washington Square News, Brian Levine, the medical school student who is a key architect of NYU's current fake-union plan) and who spends his spare time sending around photos of his drunken "hot" med school classmates, has been awarded a $50,000 fellowship in social entrepreneurship--presumably a good payoff for his collaboration in busting GSOC and disenfranchising his fellow graduate students.

And a pseudonymous professor of English wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education that "the place where greed is most evident among tenured faculty members is in their general refusal to support better pay and benefits for part-timers and graduate students who increasingly do most of the difficult teaching at the major universities where one finds the tenured professors who are very well paid indeed for that Faustian bargain." Well, yes. That's one of the many reasons why we GSOCers appreciate those faculty members who do support our struggle.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Alternative Commencement

Today, GSOC hosted an alternative commencement rally to honor graduating GSOC members and undergraduate members of GUS (who were given "Diplomas in Social Justice). One GUS graduate and two GSOC graduates (both of whom have post-Ph.D. employment) spoke about how important their participation in GSOC has been to them this year. Sociology Professor Jeff Goodwin told GSOCers that we are inspiring because we go beyond "just showing up" to actually try and change the problematic insitutional structure of NYU and of the contemporary higher education system.

Supporters came from a wide variety of local unions, including UAW shops representing adjunct professors, writers, and other workers; UNITE-HERE! members from the service sector and from Yale; graduate employees from other private universities such as UPenn; members of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY; SIEU members; and members of TWU Local 100, among others.

Labor activists, including Randi Weingarten (AFT), Roger Toussaint (TWU), Barbara Bowen (PSC-CUNY), Elizabeth Bunn (UAW), John Wilhelm (UNITE-HERE!), John Sweeny (AFL-CIO), and others spoke about the importance of the GSOC struggle for the broader labor movement, about their commitment to standing with us until we win, and about their admiration for the courage and fortitude for GSOCers who have now been walking the picket line for over 6 months. And Randi Weingarten announced an initiative to educate the high school guidance counselors throughout the state (all of whom, spare those in Buffalo, are members of her union) about the GSOC struggle and the obnoxious behavior of the NYU administration.

Other rally participants included rock band The Ride (donated by a sibling union) who played great music to start us up and wind us down. Representatives from the coalition of religious leaders who are supporting the strike read a letter speaking of John Sexton's Jesuit education and the ways in which he violates Jesuit and Catholic teachings every day that he refuses to come to the table. And New York State elected officials, including Senator Tom Duane and Assemblymember Deborah Glick, told Sexton that elected officials will not let a private institution bust unions while taking public money.

The keynote speaker at our alternative commencement was Barbara Ehrenreich, a member of the UAW National Writers' Union. She told us that she recently visited the University of Miami--and just after her visit, the university agreed to negotiate a contract with its janitors. So she hopes, as do we, that her presence is an omen of good things to come.

Finally, the best story of the day is that John Sexton told a GSOC member this morning that he would be the only one at the lunchtime rally in a comment that smacks of middle school immaturity more than almost anything else in the last six months. So imagine Sexton's dismay at the pro-GSOC chants carrying across to the audience members filing out of commencement--chants shouted by hundreds of us in the audience!

It was a great day and a fitting celebration of what we have accomplished in six months on strike. And now...onwards and upwards!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Grad Rally Thursday

GSOC will honor graduating GSOC members and undergraduate supporters at a rally this Thursday from 11:30 PM to 1 PM on Sullivan Street between 3rd and Washington Square South. Speakers will include graduating GSOC members, NYU faculty, John Sweeny (President of the AFL-CIO), Roger Toussaint (President of TWU Local 100), Christine Quinn (City Council Speaker), Randi Weingarten (President of the UFT), and Barbara Ehrenreich (author of Nickle and Dimed). Come on out and join us!

Monday, May 08, 2006

We're Here, We're There, We're Everywhere

Today, GSOCers lefleated a board of trustees meeting held at Trustee Martin Lipton's law firm. We also congratulated GSOC members and others graduating from NYU's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at today's GSAS Convocation at Lincoln Center, as well as provided information about the successful petition campaign to convocation guests. Graduating GSOC members wore GSOC buttons during the ceremony.

Also today, a documentary about the GSOC strike titled "I'm On Strike Because," created by Steve Fletcher, premiered at Landmark's Sunshine Cinema.

This Thursday, after NYU's All-University Commencement, GSOCers will again congratulate GSOC members and undergraduate supporters who are graduating with a great program of speakers. If you are going to be at Commencement or anywhere nearby, come find us on Thompson Street at 11:30, right after Commencement gets out. Think of it as an alternative Commencement, one that's on a bit more human of a scale than the chaos in Washington Square Park.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

NYU Exposed

Check out the new website, NYU Exposed, which explores the financial workings of NYU, its campus policies, and its relations with the community (especially in terms of real estate)--lots of great information for NYU students, NYU alumni, and the NYU community in general.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

More GSOC Press Hits

A photo and a short discussion of the rally appear in this week's Villager.

The People's Weekly World featured a blurb about Thursday's rally in their "This Week in Labor" section. In their coverage of the anti-war rally last Saturday, they also quote Eden Schulz discussing the connection between the war and union-busting.

The New Zealand Association of University Staff highlighted the rally in its Tertiary Update, distributed to organization members. The update dated today is also available on the New Zealand Scoop website.
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And a bit less timely, but important still the same: Coverage in the UAW Magazine, Solidarity

Religious leaders with NYU strikers

An interfaith group of religious leaders met with New York University President John Sexton to express its concerns with the university's refusal to negotiate with graduate employees. Members of GSOC/UAW Local 2110 have been on strike since Nov. 9 after the university refused to bargain a second contract.

An appeal from Religious Leaders for Justice at NYU has gathered more than 100 signatures to an open letter that reads in part: As religious leaders, we call on NYU to continue to recognize GSOC/UAW 2110 as the union for its graduate student employees and negotiate a new contract. Moreover, we call on you to stop the threat of reprisals and the implementation of actions to penalize striking graduate employees who are seeking the recognition of their union."

"The university administration has suggested that they need not negotiate with our union because they are not legally obligated to," said Jessie Morgan-Owens, a striking TA. "But these religious leaders have affirmed NYU is moraly and ethically obligated to respect our rights to associate with other workers to better our working conditions."

The delegation included Rev. Mark Hallinan of the Society of Jesus; Imam Samer Alraey of the Islamic Cultural Center of New York; Rev. David Dyson of Brooklyn's Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church; Rabbi Michael Feinberg of the Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition; Rev. Earl Kooperkamp of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Harlem; Avram Lyon of the Jewish Labor Committee; and Rev. Donna Schaper of the Judson Memorial Church.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Support from CAUT

(from the GSOC journal)

Last Thursday, Jane Buck and Cary Nelson, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) departing President and President-elect, were arrested along with 55 others in solidarity with our union and to protest the administration's continued refusal to negotiate. In response, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) has passed a resolution in solidarity with the AAUP's support for our union. The CAUT represents more than 55,000 academic staff at over 100 universities and colleges in Canada. CAUT delegates passed the following resolution unanimously.

Resolution: Solidarity with the President and President-Elect of AAUP

Whereas the president and president-elect of the American Association of University Professors have been arrested for their participation in a peaceful act of civil disobedience in support of striking graduate assistants at New York University; and

Whereas the administration of New York University refuses to negotiate with or recognize the graduate assistants’ democratically affirmed and legal choice of union representation,

Be it resolved that CAUT Council express solidarity with the president and president-elect of the American Association of University
Professors, and convey support for their efforts to defend the rights of striking graduate assistants at New York University.

Passed unanimously by the CAUT Council
April 30, 2006

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

And Another Week Begins...

...with "A Day Without an Immigrant," a nationwide day of boycotts and rallies for immigrant rights. GSOCers were in Union Square for a rally where many speakers focused on the links between rights for immigrants and rights for workers. The NYPD does not estimate crowd size, but some beleive that more than one million people took part in demonstrations in NYC yesterday.


The current issue of Academe magazine features an article about the sanctions against GSOC strikers. And the World Socialist Web Site includes a story about the April 27th rally in its rundown of Workers' Struggles in the Americas.


Finally, the University of Miami has agreed to force UNICCO, the subcontractor which supplies the campus with janitors, to allow a card-check verification process to determine if workers want union representation through the SEIU. This comes after hunger strikes involving students and janitors as well as a international publicity and petitions directed at university president Donna Shalala.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Letters of Support from Politicians

The redemonstration of majority has already begun to pay off in terms of support from politicians. Below, Nerds provide two letters that GSOC and Sexton have received from political supporters on both sides of the aisle.


April 27, 2006

As long-time supporters of both higher education and the right of workers to organize, we write to indicate our strong desire that New York University (NYU) engage in good faith negotiations with its graduate employees, GSOC/UAW Local 2110, for a collective bargaining agreement.

NYU is a valued and important institution that does much to add to New York City's prestige, intellectual capital and vibrancy. Similarly, we believe that graduate employees are an essential part of the university community - they perform significant work for the University and deserve to have their work valued accordingly.

We understand that a 2005 NLRB decision, holding that universities are not obligated under the National Labor Relations Act to bargain with the representatives of graduate employees, has stalled negotiations. However, we also understand that nothing in that decision or the law prevents an employer from maintaining a collective bargaining relationship with GSOC/UAW.

Indeed, GSOC/UAW Local 2110 and NYU have successfully conducted negotiations in the past. It is our hope that the parties will once again enter into discussions that conclude with a mutually beneficial contract.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer      Hillary Rodham Clinton
U.S. Senator (D-NY)     U.S. Senator (D-NY)



April 26, 2006

Dear Dr. Sexton,

I want you to know that I have never written a letter of this nature before. I represent the 59th Senate District in Western New York, which includes the State University of New York at Geneseo. As the senior Senator from all of upstate New York, I have always been a strong supporter of higher education. However, your school has come under heavy scrutiny by many of us upstate.

For your University, which is one of the most liberal in the country, to refuse to negotiate a second labor agreement with the UAW for graduate employees is hypocritical and, in the opinion of many, ludicrous. To hide behind an NLRB decision is, frankly, cowardice.

For NYU, a University that spawned the Brennan Institute, possibly the most liberal institution in the State, to hide behind the cloak of legality, is frankly unconscionable. You should be ashamed to know that your institution seems to represent anti-government and anti-democracy principles.

My advice is to lead your University in responsibly negotiating with the GSOC/UAW before you look even worse.

Very truly yours,

Dale Volker (R)