TL;DR: NYU continued to stall the bargaining process with a slow pace of response to our requests. We devoted this session to introducing a new impact bargaining demand about ventilation and presenting testimonials concerning our contract proposals for a living wage and for NYU to sever ties with the NYPD. In response, we received disappointing dismissals and unsatisfying counter-proposals from NYU.
The bargaining session began with official NYU responses to some of our information requests. NYU denied the existence of hiring freezes, despite us pointing out evidence of a 50% reduction of hires during the summer. They rejected our claim that NYPD presence on campus affected our working conditions, despite clear evidence that NYPD officers were refusing to wear masks on campus and are not required to fill out the daily COVID questionnaire required of everyone else in NYU buildings. All of this despite ongoing and glaring examples of widespread police violence across New York City.
In response to NYU’s current plan for mixed in-person and distant course instruction for the fall, we then introduced a new impact bargaining demand regarding building ventilation. We called upon NYU to clarify the extent to which campus buildings meet the standards set by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). We called upon NYU to do the following:
- Publish the types of ventilation and filtration systems currently operating in each NYU building, with an assessment of how closely these systems conform to the best practices described by ASHRAE in its April 2020 publication, “ASHRAE Position Document on Infectious Aerosols,” Section 3.
- Disclose in graduate instructors’ appointment letters the ventilation and filtration systems in operation in their assigned classroom.
- Make continuous efforts and investments to improve ventilation and filtration systems in NYU facilities in line with ASHRAE’s recommendations. These measures will improve health and safety on campus in the long term for all types of transmissible airborne diseases.
We then presented on two sets of proposals for our new contract: our compensation proposals and our demands for NYU to cut ties with NYPD and the prison-industrial complex. GSOC members shared testimonials (some of which are made available anonymously here) which stressed the dire circumstances students face because of the lack of a living wage. Students reported having to take out loans with exorbitant interest to make ends meet because of low wages and reduced hours. Others described the particularly difficult toll on international students who are exploited by landlords who know that international students have fewer housing options and a 20-hour working limit during the academic year.
We then shifted to testimonials concerning hardships faced by students because of the presence of NYPD officers on campus. These moving testimonials emphasized the traumas faced by students who had endured violence at the hands of the NYPD and now had to see officers walking around NYU’s campus. The testimonials reflected that the working environment of Black and brown students, in particular, is negatively affected by the presence of the NYPD, in light of the ongoing deluge of examples of NYPD violence against people of color in protests and elsewhere. Finally, the testimonials stressed that NYPD officers have been seen not wearing facemasks on campus, as is the protocol on NYU’s campus. We insisted that these examples made abundantly clear that having cops on campus is a workplace safety issue, especially for workers of color.
After a recess, NYU’s bargaining committee responded to GSOC’s impact bargaining demand for job-guaranteeing appointment letters before the start of employment (60 days for international students, 30 days for domestic students) rather than 10 days after. They made a counterproposal that would grant the earlier delivery of letters for the ‘20-’21 academic year but withdraw a current provision of our existing contract which requires the university to compensate a graduate worker if an appointment is cancelled and an equivalent position is not offered. This proposal would negate a portion of our existing contract that we fought hard for in 2015, turning our appointment letters from a guarantee of employment into a weak document. GSOC then made a counterproposal insisting on appointment letters acting as a guarantee of employment, but conceding a smaller advance time (30 days for international students, 21 days for domestic students), reiterating the urgency of this issue given that the start of classes is little more than a month away.
GSOC reiterated our demands for emergency funding as well as a clarification of procedures NYU is putting in place to ensure the safety of graduate workers. See our impact bargaining demands in detail here.
GSOC concluded the session expressing profound disappointment in NYU’s incredibly slow rate of response to our impact bargaining demands in a context of extreme precarity for graduate workers. We insisted that delaying a response to our demands for over six weeks in the context of a pandemic amounts to stalling bargaining entirely. We called upon NYU to respond more promptly.
Save the date: the next two bargaining sessions will take place on August 12 and August 26 at 1 pm EDT.