NYU Respect Our Rights: GSOC-UAW 2012-13 Year-in-Review

With the 2013-2014 year just around the corner, we’d like to catch you up and reflect on what we accomplished through GSOC/UAW this past year, where we stand and what we plan to do in the year to come to win back collective bargaining at NYU.

An eventful year moving NYU closer to respecting our rights
Starting last fall, we set out to remind the NYU administration that they are free at any time to recognize our democratic right to choose GSOC/UAW as our Union and to demand that they stop blocking that right. We made significant gains: the majority of RAs and TAs stated publicly that they support the Union on two occasions, in both the fall and again in the spring; we gained more public support from elected and other community leaders; and NYU made an offer to us that came closer to respecting our choice for GSOC/UAW than at any time since 2002.  However, while we moved NYU enough that they acknowledged implicitly that they cannot suppress us, we must continue to empower ourselves through all available means in order to overcome the Sexton administration’s stubborn resistance to RAs and TAs having our own Union together at NYU.

Majority of RAs and TAs sign open letter urging NYU to respect our democratic choice
poster_openletterthumbDuring Fall Semester, more than 1,250 graduate employees from NYU and NYU-Poly signed our Open Letter urging NYU to respect our democratic, majority choice for GSOC/UAW and SET/UAW at NYU-Poly.  In addition to presenting it to President Sexton’s office, we delivered the Open Letter to the Faculty Senators Council (FSC) meeting in December, during which we gave a presentation rebutting the central administration’s arguments against our union rights. Throughout Fall Semester, the central administration had visited the faculty of many departments making a case against our unionization—and that of RAs in particular–so it was essential that we respond.

NYU re-opens door to GSOC/UAW, slightly
Following our Open Letter and successful engagement of the FSC, the NYU administration asked in early Spring Semester to meet with GSOC/UAW to make a proposal about unionization. Encouragingly, for the first time, they proposed on the record to respect the right of most TAs to decide whether they want to have a union. Unfortunately, however, NYU also demanded that we exclude hundreds of RAs at NYU and NYU-Poly, and withdraw our petitions to the NLRB, which would mean abandoning the opportunity to set a legal precedent for thousands of graduate employees at private universities around the country. It speaks highly of our power as a Union that NYU offered more than at any time since 2002, but we found such an offer unacceptable, since we would not trade rights for some graduate employees for denying those rights to others.  We made what we thought was a reasonable counterproposal, to move ahead now with TAs having a Union and let the NLRB decide the fate of RAs’ union rights later, but NYU refused.

Majority Sign GSOC/UAW petition “for a healthy and inclusive NYU”
poster_healthcarethumbWhile NYU continued to refuse to respect our bargaining rights, we spent the remainder of Spring Semester on our campaign “for a healthy and inclusive NYU” to address dramatic cuts NYU made to our health benefits in Fall 2012 that unfairly targeted women, graduate employees with families, and international students.  After more than 1,000 GSOCers signed our petition, delegations of RAs and TAs met with Deans of multiple disciplines and schools within NYU to urge that they advocate our demands to the central administration.  Our efforts led to lower costs for spouse/partner coverage and continued access to Affordable Care Act (ACA) benefits like free preventive care and contraception—but the central administration nevertheless unilaterally raised most overall premium costs for 2013-14 by 2-3% while continuing the benefits cuts from Fall 2012, showing once again that we will not have a fair, stable and transparent healthcare system until we bargain collectively with NYU.


Graduate Employees in Cinema Studies and Media, Culture, and Communication organize, win new benefits
The graduate students in Cinema Studies and in Media, Culture and Communication also showed how groups of workers can benefit when they work together for a common goal. After organizing among themselves with support from GSOC/UAW, in both departments, graduate employees demanded and succeeded in winning more years of coverage of health insurance and maintenance of matriculation fees—benefits that most departments with PhD programs have had for many years.  While this is an improvement for all PhD students in these two programs, these victories especially make NYU more accessible for women and international students.

Closing the 2012-13 Year with a bang!  Growing community support for GSOC/UAW
20130509petitionWhen we delivered our healthcare petition to the central administration on May 9, a delegation including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, State Assembly member Deborah Glick, and State Senator Brad Hoylman joined us to deliver an open letter signed by more than 250 elected and community leaders calling on the administration to stop dragging its feet and recognize our right to choose unionization. This event showed that we are not alone in this fight, and that our many supporters will stand behind us until we win back our democratic right to a Union.

Like many of the other campaigns taking on the questionable priorities of the NYU central administration and its controversial plans for expanding the university, our campaign shows that NYU is more than buildings, and that the administration needs to recognize and respect the people – such as RAs and TAs – that keep the university performing at the highest levels.

We look forward to building on these achievements in the coming year.  Want to get more involved in planning for an even more successful 2013-14 year? Send us an email.  And don’t forget to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter.

In solidarity,

Brinton Ahlin, Anthropology
Peiyang Chen, Chemistry
Patrick Cooper, Physics
Tasha Darbes, Teaching & Learning
Lily Defriend, Anthropology
Andrew Dubrov, French
Kouross Esmaeli, Media, Culture & Communication
Brady Fletcher, Cinema Studies
Bekah Friedman, History
Kathrina LaPorta, French
Darach Miller, Biology
Uri Nieto, Music Performing Arts & Professions
Kaitlin Noss, Social & Cultural Analysis Studies
Sukhmani Singh, Applied Psychology
Carla Thomas, English
Emmy Tiderington, Social Work
Chen Hung Wu, Mathematics