solidarity across unions

Friday, April 28, 2006

57 Teaching Assistants Arrested at N.Y.U. Sit-In for Union Rights 

April 28, 2006
By Steven Greenhouse
New York Times

Fifty-seven people were arrested at a sit-in at New York University yesterday as part of an effort to pressure the university to grant its graduate teaching and research assistants union recognition.

Graduate students and union supporters were arrested an hour after the Graduate Students Organizing Committee announced that a majority of graduate teaching assistants had signed a petition saying they wanted the group to be their union.

The group, which is affiliated with the United Auto Workers, has been on strike for six months and is searching for new ways to pressure the university to grant union recognition. N.Y.U. says the strike has fizzled, asserting that only two dozen graduate teaching and research assistants are still participating, while the organizing committee insists that 200 are still involved.

In 2000, shortly after the National Labor Relations Board reversed itself and ruled that graduate teaching and research assistants were essentially employees, not students, N.Y.U. became the first and only private university to grant union recognition to its graduate students.

In a contract, the group won substantial improvements in compensation and benefits, but last August, N.Y.U. stopped recognizing and negotiating with the union. It did so after the labor relations board, which had become dominated by Bush administration appointees, reversed itself again and ruled that graduate assistants were students, not workers, and had no right to unionize.

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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.