UAW Graduate Employees Reach Historic Agreement with NYU after Eight-Year Struggle

1,247 Can Vote for a Union, NYU Promises to Remain Neutral and Respect Majority

New York, NY – UAW graduate employees have reached an unprecedented agreement with New York University in which the administration will remain neutral and respect the results of an election for more than 1,200 GAs, TAs, and RAs to vote on Union representation. In an election expected to happen on December 10th and 11th, a majority vote by graduate employees would restore collective bargaining and put the Union in position to have a new contract in place by the end of the academic year.Looking forward to voting “yes” to win back the Union after an eight-year struggle, a group of more than 100 graduate employees from every major department across NYU and the Polytechnic Institute of NYU has endorsed the agreement between NYU and the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/UAW (GSOC/UAW) and Scientists and Engineers Together/UAW (SET/UAW). Key provisions of the agreement, which represents a significant improvement over previous NYU offers in the last year, include:

  • Representation for a larger number of graduate employees than under the first GSOC/UAW contract.
  • A commitment by the NYU administration – including department chairs, directors of graduate studies, and others – to remain neutral and refrain from influencing the election.
  • Provision for a neutral arbitrator to resolve any pre-election or bargaining disputes.

In a joint statement issued today, the UAW and NYU expressed confidence that the agreement will “improve the graduate student experience” and “sustain and enhance NYU’s academic competitiveness.”

“It is great news that we are finally able to win back our Union because bargaining improvements is good for us as graduate employees, and it is good for NYU if it wants to be a serious research, teaching, and learning institution,” said Hadi Gharabaghi, a PhD student and TA in Cinema Studies at NYU.  “And, as a TA who had to put my family on state-subsidized healthcare because of NYU’s 33% increase in dependent premiums, the cost of not having a Union has been too high.”

Given the potential to start bargaining immediately following the election and to win changes that could improve the lives of graduate employees in near term, the Union has agreed to stop waiting for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and to withdraw its pending 2010 and 2011 petitions at NYU and NYU-Poly.

“The tenacity shown by these workers over the last eight years is inspiring and has produced an innovative agreement,” said Julie Kushner, Director of UAW Region 9A.  “As an organization, the UAW is proud to have stood with these workers since 1998, and we are committed to standing with workers wherever they show this type of interest in organizing for a voice in their workplace.”

While the question of bargaining rights for RAs in the hard sciences and engineering remains unresolved, the agreement allows more than 1,200 GAs, TAs, and other RAs to vote before the end of the semester and prevent the possibility of protracted litigation.

“I’m committed to winning bargaining rights for all RAs,” said Theadora Tolkin, who has worked as an RA and TA in the Biology Department at NYU. “I believe this agreement is the best step forward and am hopeful that bargaining will end up benefiting all RAs anyway, as happened under the first contract, especially on improved family-friendly benefits that will make NYU more accessible to any researchers who value strong families.”

A majority vote by graduate employees will end the 8-year struggle by graduate employees to win back their bargaining rights after NYU refused to bargain a second contract in 2005. (See the campaign

“At NYU-Poly, we are especially excited to get out and vote ‘yes’ for our Union because it means we can get into negotiations in early 2014 and ensure that we have a voice in decisions about our pay, benefits and working conditions as our campus gets merged with NYU,” said Jialin Zou, a graduate assistant in Electrical and Computer Engineering at NYU-Poly, which is merging with NYU as of January 2014.

“We commend NYU for the commitment to democratic principles reflected in this agreement, particularly their commitment to neutrality and an expedited election process where workers can freely decide on union representation without interference from the employer or outside forces,” said UAW President Bob King.  “We believe that collective bargaining benefits employees, and that when workers have a voice, it also contributes more effectively to the success of the employer – in the NYU case, having stable pay, benefits, and working conditions will enable these workers to focus more on providing the quality teaching and research that make NYU a world-leading university.”

The UAW represents more than 45,000 academic workers across the US, including graduate employees at the University of Massachusetts, University of Washington, University of California and California State University.

Originally published here.