Friday, December 09, 2005

Union Busting NYU style

In 2000 there was a landmark ruling at the National Labour Relations Board, which granted the right to graduate students to form unions at private universities. In 2004 the NLRB reversed its ruling, now making it illegal to form unions at private universities, stating that:

"Graduate-student assistants, including those at Brown, are primarily students and have a primarily educational, not economic, relationship with their university," the majority wrote. They further found that since the money received by teaching assistants is the same as that received by students on fellowships, it is not "consideration for work" but financial aid.

Because of this ruling, in 2005 when it came time for NYU students to negotiate a new contract, the administration refused to recognize their union, GSOC. This is why graduate students at NYU have been on strike since November 9th.

"The strike is the culmination of tensions that began this summer when NYU announced it would no longer recognize the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, the local affiliate of the United Auto Workers that represents NYU graduate assistants."

Around November 28th, NYU President John Sexton sent out a letter to all striking teaching assistants threatening them with financial repurcussions and blacklisting, should they not return to work by December 5th, which was then extended to December 7th.

Gordon Lafer notes that the threatening sanctions and scare tactics against the teaching assistants and faculty at the university have not been seen since the McCarthy era:

"According to Sexton, teachers who continue striking will be banned from teaching in the spring and will be denied their full salary for that term. Such punitive threats are patently illegal under federal law; while it is permissible to dock the pay of people while they are on strike, it is illegal to ban them from future work as punishment for past strikes.

Sexton further demanded that anyone who takes a teaching job in the spring pledge - as a condition of employment - not to participate in job actions. This type of "yellow dog" contract has been illegal since 1932, when it was banned in legislation authored by New York's own Fiorello LaGuardia, when he was a member of Congress.

Finally, Sexton suggests that those who participate in strike actions but, God forbid, graduate before they can be punished, may have negative assessments attached to their university record when they apply for jobs at other schools. This type of blacklisting has not been seen since the dark days of McCarthyism."

If you believe that graduate students should have the right to form unions, and they possess a dual role in the university as both students and workers, please send a letter to NYU President John Sexton ( or sign the online petition, which now has over 6000 signatures on it:

To keep up to date on the strike:


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