NYU: Stop Botching Our Health Benefits
Despite our significant contributions to NYU’s teaching and research missions, many of us have struggled to make ends meet this summer with less than we expected. Why? The NYU administration recently took back its commitment to distribute substantial amounts of money to graduate student employees for health insurance premium rebates. After promising us hundreds of dollars in Affordable Care Act-related rebates, NYU now says it made a “mistake” in its calculations and many of us will instead receive checks for only five to eight dollars.
We all make mistakes, but this one feels particularly egregious since the rebates stem from our benefits for the 2012-13 year when NYU imposed a dramatic 33% premium increase on our plans. These 2012-13 cost increases particularly hurt women and international graduate employees with families. NYU’s handling of our health benefits in recent years played a central role in driving such a strong majority of graduate employees to support winning back Graduate Student Organizing Committee/United Auto Workers (GSOC/UAW) as our Union.
When we voted by a 98.4% margin on December 11th we believed we were making history—again—and that NYU would finally respect the serious contributions we make to this university every day. With our neutrality agreement, NYU seemed to finally overcome its long-time resistance to graduate employee unionization, even concurring in a joint statement that unionization could “improve the graduate student experience.”
Since then, unfortunately, NYU has not agreed to a fair contract and now, to make things even worse, has taken back money it promised to graduate employees this summer. We teach students who pay upwards of $45,000 dollars a year to NYU in order to take our classes! Shouldn’t we have affordable, quality health benefits? Shouldn’t we have affordable family healthcare? The majority of us have said YES, most recently when over 1,000 graduate employees signed our letter demanding a fair contract.
While our bargaining committee has made significant progress on a new contract, NYU’s refusal to make a fair economic proposal on pay, health benefits, and childcare has prevented a full agreement and especially infuriates those among us who currently pay the full cost of our healthcare when we work, and those at our newly merged engineering school, NYU-Poly, who continue to earn as little as $10 an hour for their often highly-specialized and cutting-edge work that helps to expand Brooklyn’s economic development. And because Poly students get no tuition remitted as a benefit of their vital work, they are also essentially paying NYU so that they can work for NYU. This is to say nothing of the spouses and children of graduate employees—and in particular those of international students—whose calls for access to healthcare and benefits have gone unanswered.
The cruelest irony here is that these rebates show that NYU had the resources to do better on our health benefits in 2012-13. We are confident they have the money to do better now and help make NYU a better, more accessible university.
As graduate employees we now need to renew and amplify our call for better benefits and accessible coverage for our families.
We demand that NYU make us whole, agree to a fair contract and give us the respect we deserve.
Your GSOC/UAW Local 2110 Bargaining Committee
Pushkar Bharambe, Financial & Risk Engineering
Lily Defriend, Anthropology
Brady Fletcher, Cinema Studies
Yeshim Iqbal, Applied Psychology
Aryeh Katz, Electrical & Computer Engineering
Jeong Min Kim, East Asian Studies
Natasha Raheja, Anthropology
Theadora Tolkin, Biology