NYU Grad Assistants Choose a Voice
Some 1,700 graduate student employees at New York University are
set to become the first unionized private university graduate
assistants in the nation after the National Labor Relations Board's
Nov. 15 certification of their choice of the UAW in an April 2000
But the NYU administration has yet to announce whether it will
abide by the NLRB's decision or continue its nearly two-year battle
to deny student employees a voice at work.
"This victory has been a long time coming and we are now ready to
speak in a united voice to the university. It's time to end long
hours at low pay and inadequate benefits," Kimberly Johnson, a
member of the Graduate
Student Organizing Committee/UAW, said in a statement.
In early 1999, GSOC/UAW approached the NYU administration in an
attempt to reach a card-check agreement, in which the union would be
recognized as the graduate assistants' bargaining agent if a
majority signed union authorization cards. But NYU refused and
argued before the NLRB that students had no right to organize. The
election was held in April 2000 after an NLRB regional director
found the students did have the right to join a union, but the
ballots were not counted until the full NLRB ruled on the NYU
administration's appeal of the regional ruling.
"Now that every roadblock, legalistic and otherwise, that the
university was able to create has been overcome, it's appropriate
that NYU do what thousands of other employers do all the
timeŚrespect their workforce and bargain constructively for a
mutually beneficial contract," said Phil
Wheeler, UAW Region 9-A director.
The NYU graduate employees join a growing trend at colleges and
universities around the nation. UAW represents about 15,000 student
employees at eight University of California and two University of
Massachusetts campuses. Grad assistants at more than two dozen
state-supported campuses have formed unions.
Graduate workers at private universities and colleges who are
seeking a voice on the job hope the NLRB's ruling in the NYU case
will boost their opportunities to organize.
"The U.S. labor movement stands strongly behind academic student
employees in their effort to win collective bargaining rights,
because the right to organize a union is a fundamental civil right
for all American workers, in all industries and occupations,"
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a speech at the University of
Washington, where some 84 percent of the 1,650 graduate student
employees have chosen to form a union, the Graduate Student Employee
Action Coalition/UAW. The school's administration has refused to
recognize the students' choice.