solidarity across unions

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Trying to Raise the Stakes at NYU 

Graduate students at New York University — on strike for months in hopes of saving their union — got support Thursday from the outgoing and incoming presidents of the American Association of University Professors, who were arrested for disorderly conduct for blocking a street in front of NYU.

Cary Nelson, the incoming president and a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in an interview before his arrest (and that of Jane Buck, the departing president) that he saw Thursday’s actions as a “ramping up of resistance” to NYU. More than 50 others were also arrested, most of them NYU graduate students, plus a few graduate students from other institutions.

While many leaders of faculty groups have backed the NYU grad students with resolutions and statements, Nelson said it was important to go beyond that. “We’re here to put our bodies where our words have been — to signal to our membership that this is a cause worthy of the long, honorable tradition of civil disobedience, that this is a fundamental issue of employee rights, and in truth this is the watershed academic labor crisis of our generation,” he added.

Nelson said that he was planning a “personal boycott” of NYU and that he would soon be encouraging other faculty members nationally to consider steps similar to those he will take, such as refusing to serve on NYU tenure review or publication review committees, refusing to speak on the campus, advising students against enrolling at graduate school or seeking employment there, and generally having “no active relationship” with the university. He said that the graduate students’ work stoppage alone — which is now rather modest as many of the students have returned to work — will not win the strike, but that a more unified effort could do so.

“People need to start making moral decisions about what to do,” said Nelson.

The conflict at NYU is over the right of graduate students at private institutions 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.