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....

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.

TAU @ Western Mich. Votes Yes 

KALAMAZOO – Teaching Assistants at Western Michigan University voted overwhelmingly today for union representation, giving themselves the right to negotiate health insurance, salary, tuition waivers, and other conditions of employment with the university administration. The vote, 290 in favor, 14 against, certifies the Teaching Assistants Union (TAU) as a collective bargaining agent affiliated with AFT Michigan, AFL-CIO. Eligible to vote were approximately 700 graduate students who work teaching, grading, and tutoring on the university's Kalamazoo campus. The election was conducted yesterday and today by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC).

Teaching Assistants teach many of the introductory courses and lab sections at the university while they simultaneously pursue graduate degrees. Many supported unionization because of the poor health insurance provided by the university. "Women's health care issues have been completely ignored," said Rebecca Hayes who teaches Criminal Justice at the University. Other cited salaries and tuition waivers. Overall, however, the central issue for these workers was recognition: "My department values who I am, but we need a union to have a voice within the larger university community," said Jason Trowbridge a TA in mathematics and a member of the union's organizing committee.

Like the graduate employee unions at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University, TAU is affiliated with AFT Michigan, AFT, AFL-CIO. Graduate employees have also formed unions at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, all University of California campuses, and the University of Kansas. Currently, graduate employees at New York University, affiliated with the United Auto Workers, are on strike to protest NYU's refusal to recognize their union.

15th Annual Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions Conference 

Philadelphia, August 11-13, 2006

GET-UP/AFT, Rutgers AAUP-AFT, and TUGSA/AFT are proud to announce the dates for the 15th annual CGEU conference, which will be held in Philadelphia on August 11-13, 2006.

We plan to build on the successes of past conferences but also to engage new challenges with this year's conference. Over the past year, the CGEU has engaged in unprecedented actions of solidarity and has moved toward greater coherency as a sector of the U.S. labor movement. In that spirit, this year's conference will host panels that will move us farther toward a national and North American agenda to achieve workplace, pay, and benefit standards for graduate labor. As members of powerful labor unions across North America, we should all seek the benefit of their organizing expertise to conceive our agenda and implement it. We plan to invite union experts in bargaining, media relations, corporate campaigns, labor law, etc. to share their knowledge with us. But we will not be passive learners, for we expect to these experts to take a better understanding of the grad. union movement agenda back to their respective unions. We will also invite the leaders of our respective unions to either attend the conference or to send a high-level representative in their stead, with the intention being to engage in a inter-union dialogue about how assets can be deployed best to assist the CGEU agenda.

More details to follow...Please mark your calendars now and plan on coming to Philadelphia the second weekend in August! We're very much looking forward to seeing you.

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.