New York University Grad Employees Call off Strike
Schmid, Julie M., Academe
After striking for six months, the graduate-student employees at New York University returned to work last fall without securing a second contract. The strike, which began on November 9, 2005, was suspended over summer 2006, when the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC/United Auto Workers) decided to pursue other tactics to compel the university to negotiate with the union. At issue, according to the graduate-student employees, is the future of union negotiations at NYU as well as the future of the contingent academic labor movement-they say they see their continuing campaign as part of a larger struggle against the equalization of academic labor.
GSOC was the first graduate employee union certified under the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) 2000 decision recognizing graduate employees at private universities as employees with full bargaining rights. The union was certified in 2001. In 2002, GSOC and NYU negotiated the first contract for graduate assistants at a private university. In 2004, the NLRB overturned its earlier decision. Although its tloing so did not preclude the NYU administration from continuing to recognize the graduate employee union, the administration chose not to and refused to negotiate a successor collective bargaining agreement with GSOC. In fall 2005, the graduate-student employees voted by an 85 percent margin to strike to protest the administration's decision to withdraw recognition of the union.
The NYU administration maintains that the union is an unnecessary "intermediary" between the university and the graduate employees and that the university deal directly with departmentally elected graduate student representatives on issues such as pay, health care, and working conditions. …