Important update on GSOC/UAW meeting with NYU

At the end of last semester, we delivered our open letter from more than 1,200 RAs, TAs, and GAs to the NYU administration urging that they respect our democratic choice on unionization. Early this semester, NYU asked to meet with representatives of GSOC/UAW to present us with a proposal about unionization. While the offer they made in our meeting yesterday shows more NYU openness to re-establishing collective bargaining than in recent years, the administration still insists on denying bargaining rights to most research assistants.

In reiterating an offer it made off-the-record last year, NYU said in Thursday’s meeting it would recognize the right of doctoral students, who are on stipends and are teaching, to choose collective bargaining, but only if we agreed to withdraw our pending petition at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In other words, NYU asked us to abandon bargaining rights for hundreds of RAs and other graduate employees at NYU and NYU-Poly, as well as prevent the establishment of precedent for thousands of graduate employees nationally. The administration proposal would also require a commitment from the Union not to attempt to organize RAs for at least ten years.

In the interest of re-establishing a constructive relationship with the NYU administration, and in recognition of their current discomfort with RA collective bargaining rights, we made what we believe was a practical and principled offer of our own. We proposed that:

(1) based on a demonstration of majority support for GSOC/UAW, NYU would immediately re-commence bargaining with the grouping of graduate employees who originally voted for GSOC/UAW and won our first contract only to have NYU unilaterally refuse to bargain a second contract in 2005 – this group would include fully-funded graduate students who are teaching, RAs who are not funded by external grants; and graduate assistants; and

(2) NYU and the Union agree to let the NLRB decide on the bargaining rights of the remaining employees in our NLRB petition (externally-funded RAs and all graduate employees at NYU-Poly), and that, if the NLRB says these employees have bargaining rights, NYU would abide by a fair election process where these employees would decide whether to be incorporated into the Union.

NYU said it would consider our offer and get back to us. While they would not commit to our proposal, we felt we had a constructive dialogue. After hearing the University’s concerns about RAs, for example, we spent time walking through examples of how RAs in the UAW at the University of Massachusetts and University of Washington have effectively balanced collective bargaining with academic excellence and mentoring.

While we had a productive conversation, we will need to continue to make clear to NYU that we are not willing to accept rights for some graduate employees in exchange for denying those rights to other graduate employees. If you have not yet signed our open letter urging NYU to respect our choice on unionization, please join more than 1,250 of your colleagues by signing on now.

We will keep you posted if there are any future developments.

In the meantime, if you are interested in joining others at NYU to try to address the recent cuts to our health benefits or getting involved in other GSOC/UAW activities, please click here to send us your information.

In solidarity,

Your colleagues in GSOC/UAW