solidarity across unions

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Why GSOC is winning 

By Gordon Lafer
December 09, 2005
Washington Square News

To an outside observer, the most dramatic fact about the current strike may be that all signs suggest that the Graduate Student Organizing Committee is on the verge of a huge victory. Since this fact seems to be counterintuitive to many people, it's worth laying out the reasons I think so.

First, the Draconian threats that the administration has made - every one of which is illegal under federal labor law - are impossible to carry out. The university claims that its intimidation tactics have succeeded in scaring three-quarters of GAs into giving up the strike. This number may or may not be real - they probably have no accurate way of knowing, and given the history of administrative hyper-spin, it's probably exaggerated. But even if just 250 GAs keep striking, the administration can't afford to enact its threats. If NYU President John Sexton were to ban 250 graduate students from teaching and cut all their funding for the spring semester, some of them would be forced to drop out, and some international students would be forced to leave the country. Departments with strong participation in the union might find their graduate programs hurt. There would be an enormous outcry of protest from both graduate students and faculty.

Normally, people on strike do not get paid. That was the "punishment" that GSOC members were prepared for. But NYU has kept paying strikers for a strategic reason. Everyone knows that the National Labor Relations Board case may be re-litigated under a Democratic president. Docking the pay of strikers would make it apparent that NYU is paying GAs for work and not giving them a stipend for scholarly training. The administration's strategic choice to keep paying strikers made it easier for people to stay out. But it certainly doesn't give the administration the right to turn to the thuggish tactic of blacklisting...

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The Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions is a loose-knit coalition of labor unions in the USA and Canada that represents graduate students employed as teachers, researchers, and administrative staff.