Wednesday, June 21, 2006

News Update

Last week marked the 70th Annual United Auto Workers union convention, held in the union town of Las Vegas. GSOC members were there in their roles as voting delegates of Local 2110, and they got to hear a speach by UAW president Ron Gettelfinger in which he mentioned our struggle as one of five out of over 100 strike situations in the last four years. Read more about Gettelfinger's speach at Axcess News.

Elsewhere in academia, adjunct faculty at Marymount Manhattan have voted 95-23 to form a union affiliated with NYSUT. Higher education remains at the forefront of contemporary unionization efforts--remember, GSOC is the future.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Update on Janitors at U of Miami

The janitors at the University of Miami voted to join SIEU this week. At least 60% voted in favor; the American Arbitration Association stopped counting at that point. This comes after a 9-week strike and a campaign involving students, faculty, and others, as Nerds have previously reported. Read more from The Orlando Sentinal.

Friday, June 09, 2006

How You Can Help GSOC During Summer Vacation

Nerds know our trusty readers have not been getting very much news lately--that's because NYU is on summer vacation and GSOC's picket-line action is in "recess." After all, pretty much all the summer positions at NYU for graduate student employees are actually not represented by GSOC (most summer teaching, for instance, is paid as an adjunct job). But that doesn't mean our campaign is at a standstill. Here are some things you can do to help:

1. Ask your congressperson to add his or her signature to the open letter to Sexton. While you are at it, forward the information about the letter to your friends and relatives across the country--it will only take a minute for them to send letters, and the more signatures we get (especially from out-of-the-way places) the better. But send it to local representatives as well--they should know that tons of their constituents value their support of GSOC.

2. Don't forget about the sign-on letter from Senators Clinton and Schumer. Ask you senator to sign it, and send it to friends and relatives across the country so they can ask their own senators for a signature. If you are in New York State, write to Clinton and Schumer and tell them how much you appreciate their support of GSOC.

3. Donate to the Strike Fund. Local 2110 did a great job funding GSOCers who were not paid this spring, but remember that pay cuts will continue in the fall and the strike fund needs time to build itself up so GAs can be funded then. Additionally, some GSOCers were denied employment this summer because of their union activism--a tactic on the part of NYU's administration which would be considered an unfair labor practice if we still were recognized by the NLRB.

4. Spread the word about NYU Exposed, the website that tells alumni and others about the corrupt inner workings of NYU. On the website, you can sign up for updates.

5. Are you an NYU alumn or current student at any of NYU's schools? Then write to the alumni giving representative for the school from which you graduated or will graduate and pledge not to donate even one cent to the university until it negotiates a new contract with GSOC. This makes a bigger difference than you might think--university rankings systems like US News incorporate the alumni giving rate into the rankings they compute, and this has traditionally been one of NYU's weak spots in the rankings. While you are at it, forward a copy of your email to Sexton.

6. Make sure to keep reading Nerds and keep telling your friends and aquaintances all the dirt on NYU.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Union Victory in UK

A grade strike in the United Kingdom has come to an end
with a tentative agreement that will raise wages 13.1% over three years for lecturers and 15.5% for non-academic university staff.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"Taking the AAUP Downtown"

An excerpt from a longer article about Cary Nelson from The Chronicle of Higher Education (paid subscription or on-campus computer required to view the entire article):

On Thursday, two days after "the Eighteen Wheeler" breakfast, Mr. Nelson got arrested.

It happened in New York, where he had traveled with Jane Buck, departing president of the association. They were there to attend a rally in favor of union recognition for graduate teaching assistants at New York University. The rally began at nearby Judson Memorial Church, where Mr. Nelson gave a fiery speech denouncing NYU. Then he and Ms. Buck went outside and sat in the middle of the street with about 50 striking graduate students, at which point the police arrested them all, put them in vans, and sent them downtown for processing.

Since graduate students at NYU began striking for union recognition, in November 2005, several of the major national union bosses had gone to the campus, many of them to get arrested. The AAUP was different, though. None of the association's presidents had ever gotten booked for acts of civil disobedience. The whole enterprise made Ms. Buck and Mr. Nelson giddy. "It's just the right thing to do," she said before getting locked up.

Breaking with AAUP form was Mr. Nelson's idea, of course. The minor audacity of the gesture was delicious to him. Before the rally, he said he could picture some of his AAUP colleagues "fainting dead away" at the thought of his and Ms. Buck's "being carried away in a paddy wagon."

As it turned out, no one swooned. Roger W. Bowen, general secretary of the AAUP, runs the association's main office, in Washington. In the days following the rally, he says, he received a fair number of e-mail messages about the arrests, hardly any of them expressing dismay. "The communications to my office were, with one exception, quite positive," he says, "and a number of former members who had let their membership lapse said that they would be rejoining."

In a couple of ways, the NYU rally exemplifies Mr. Nelson's vision for the AAUP. First, he hopes the group will start paying more attention to graduate students. Under his watch, he hopes, it will craft "a more elaborate statement on graduate-student rights, procedures, and responsibilities," he says. The concern for teaching assistants is not at all out of character for Mr. Nelson; he is a longtime advocate of graduate-student collective bargaining and has written extensively on the subject.

More generally — and this is a larger break from form for the AAUP — he also wants to inch it toward being more interventionist. The association typically throws its moral weight into an issue only after it has had the chance to conduct a thorough and neutral investigation, and only after there is a "body" — meaning that a conflict has come to a head and someone has gotten hurt. Mr. Nelson thinks there are some instances where the AAUP's principles are so clear, and where violations are so unambiguous, that condemning them should not take months of investigation.

He thinks NYU is a good example. AAUP policy says all campus employee groups should have the right to decide whether they want to bargain collectively. NYU has taken that decision away from its teaching assistants, Mr. Nelson says; hence the AAUP has every reason to stand publicly against the university, without further discussion.

(Of course, the legal debate over TA unions has hung for years on this semantic snag: Are teaching assistants employees, or just apprentices with no bargaining rights? So far, every private university that has faced graduate-student unionization has categorized them as apprentices.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Front Page News: New York AAUP Newspaper

In the Spring 2006 edition of New York Academe, the newspaper of the New York State Conference of the American Association of University Professors, we are front-page news. See below for full text.

AAUP Leaders are Arrested in Civil Disobedience Action
Protesters sit down for what they stand for. AAUP president Jane Buck and president-elect Cary Nelson were arrested

On April 27 in New York City, Buck and Nelson were detained by police for their participation in an act of civil disobedience.

They joined more than 50 other protesters to demonstrate their support for striking graduate assistants at New York University.

The strike, which began during the fall semester, has continued as the NYU administration has persisted in its refusal to negotiate with the union following a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision that graduate student employees were not covered by the National Labor Relations Act.

The administration then allowed a collective bargaining agreement between the University and the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/Local 2110 UAW to lapse.

Buck stated AAUP's position on the key issue. "It is the policy of the American Association of University Professors," she said, "that graduate assistants, like other campus employees, should have the right to bargain collectively. Under no circumstances should they be subject to retaliation for their collective bargaining activity."

Cary Nelson, addressing a group of students and labor leaders at New York's Judson Memorial Church, called the action "a watershed moment in the struggle for employee rights."

He further noted: "The NYU administration has recklessly maximized the tension with its graduate employees. Those of us who support them must now stand our ground or there will be no ground left on which to stand."

He called upon the NYU administration to negotiate a contract with the graduate assistants and to recognize the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/Local 2110 UAW, the graduate students' democratically affirmed and legal choice of union representation.

Nelson and Buck were charged with disorderly conduct for blocking the street in front of the Washington Square Arch before the NYU administration building. They will appear in court at a future date yet to be specified.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sign On Letter for U.S. Representatives

Jerrold Nadler, Congressman from New York, 8th District, has written an open letter to the United States House of Representatives, asking his colleagues to sign on to a letter to John Sexton calling for negotiations between NYU and our union. GSOC supporters can aid in this effort by calling or emailing their representatives and urging them to sign.

Nadler's letter follows a similar letter from New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, urging all US Senators to sign a letter to Sexton demanding negotiations. GSOC supporters can also urge their Senators to sign this letter.

We encourage all GSOC members and supporters to encourage friends and relatives across the country about these legislative letters, as they are an effective way to keep pressure building on NYU to negotiate over the summer.

The text of the Dear Colleague letter from Nadler to the House is below, followed by the sign-on letter to Sexton.

Dear Colleague:

Graduate employees at New York University, members of GSOC/UAW Local 2110, have been on strike for a second contract since November 9, 2005. At issue are wages, hours, benefits and a meaningful grievance resolution procedure. But, more fundamentally, the dispute is about the right of employees to have a representative of their own choosing.

Graduate employees at NYU voted to join the UAW in 2000, pursuant to an NLRB decision applying the National Labor Relations Act to graduate employees. In 2002, the UAW and NYU signed a collective bargaining agreement – the first ever union contract for graduate employees in a private university. This landmark agreement improved wages, benefits and working conditions, while at the same time preserving the University's exclusive right to determine all academic matters.

At the expiration of the agreement in August 2005, however, the University withdrew recognition of the union, and has since refused to negotiate with GSOC/UAW over the terms of a second contract. NYU has sought to hide behind a flawed and highly controversial decision by the NLRB, newly stocked with Bush appointees, reversing an earlier decision, and holding that graduate employees are not entitled to the protections of the National Labor Relations Act. But, as NYU has admitted, nothing in this NLRB decision or in the law prohibits the University from continuing a collective bargaining relationship with the graduate employees' designated representative.

Graduate employees have consistently demonstrated majority support for the union, including, in the last year, signing petitions calling for negotiations, demonstrating, engaging in civil disobedience and striking in an effort to secure a second contract.

The work of graduate employees is central to the educational mission of the University. These employees teach an estimated eighty-five percent of undergraduate classes in the core curriculum. The work of graduate employees is valuable, and the University should value it by negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with their designated representative.

The University's conduct refusal to negotiate has been soundly condemned by all stakeholders in the community: students, faculty, civil and human rights activists, the greater labor movement and elected officials.

The University has an opportunity to resolve this dispute by negotiating an enforceable contract with GSOC/UAW. Permitting the conflict to carry over to the next academic semester is irresponsible, and at odds with the University's obligation to pursue educational excellence.

We ask you to stand with graduate employees and their elected representative, GSOC/UAW, by signing the attached letter calling for the NYU administration to resolve the dispute by negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the union. For further information, please contact Lisette Morton in my office at 202-225-5635.


Jerrold Nadler
Member of Congress

Dear President Sexton:

As elected officials, we wish to express our strong support for the graduate employees at New York University, members of GSOC/UAW Local 2110 who have called upon the NYU administration to engage in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

Graduate employees perform valuable work for the University and are entitled to have the work valued accordingly.

The NYU administration's refusal to bargain with the union relies on the flawed 2005 NLRB decision holding that universities are not obligated under the National Labor Relations Act to bargain with the representative of graduate employees. But as the NYU administration has admitted, nothing in that decisison or the law prevents NYU from maintaining a collective bargaining relationship with GSOC/UAW.

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 negotiating an enforceable second contract with the employees' designated representative, GSOC/UAW.