What is GSOC-UAW Local 2110?
GSOC-UAW Local 2110 is the union representing graduate employees at NYU in negotiations over terms and conditions of their employment since 1998. From 2002 to 2005, GSOCers were the first private university graduate employees to have concluded a union contract with their employer. That contract increased graduate stipends by an average of 38%, secured fully paid health insurance premiums for the first time, and made NYU competitive with universities like Harvard, Yale, and M.I.T. for attracting top talent to its graduate programs.
After 2005, under President John Sexton, NYU chose to stop negotiating with GSOC after a decision by the George W. Bush-appointed National Labor Relations Board gave them that option, but GSOCers continued to organize for 8 years, eventually winning recognition from NYU through a private agreement and 98.4% “Union Yes” vote in a December 2013 election. GSOC signed a new contract with NYU in March 2015 that will be in effect through August 31, 2020.
Are my graduate students members of the union?
GSOC is a union for working graduate students at NYU. Currently, students appointed to the following positions are covered by the agreement with NYU:
- Graduate students (Master’s/Ph.D.) who teach classes or have appointed teaching assistantships or laboratory assistantships (except Ph.D. student adjuncts beyond the 7th year)
- Ph.D. Research assistants (although exceptions exist in GSAS, Stern, and Poly)
- Graduate assistants and course assistants
- Graduate student workers in a range of miscellaneous positions, who are employed by NYU
Why do my graduate students need a union?
There are many benefits to graduate employee unionism. First, unionization pushes back against the march of precarity in academic labor marked by unequal funding packages for grad students, ever-growing rates of adjunct and contingent faculty positions widening the income gap in the professoriate, and the increasing power of the administrative class in higher education as it moves farther away from shared governance and closer to a fully corporate model. Unionization of graduate workers, especially at a leading institution like NYU, is crucial both to making the next generation of researchers and teachers aware of these important changes and to equipping them with the skills to challenge them.
Second, unionizing gives graduate workers a contract they can enforce, improving morale and creating a better environment for their growth as workers and students. We now have recourse to grieve unsafe and unfair working conditions, for one. Our new contract also guarantees that total compensation will rise yearly, all union workers will receive at least 90% healthcare subsidies and free StuDent coverage, and workers will have access to a dependent health care fund and a child care fund. These provisions make it much easier for us to do our jobs and to thrive in our programs.
Third, our graduate union gives us a leg up socially. We develop skills to advocate for ourselves and our colleagues. We reach out across department, school, and university lines to form relationships that prove personally fulfilling and professionally useful. We gain experience juggling multiple commitments in addition to a dissertation and so are better prepared for the demands of junior faculty.
What are the department responsibilities outlined in the contract?
All departments should be aware of what is stated in the contract. Some important points to keep in mind are
- All graduate employment opportunities have to be posted so that eligible students know that they can apply
- Appointment letters have to be given to the student at least 10 business days before the appointment starts, minimally stating the position’s salary, duration, and expected average hours per week.
- Graduate student adjuncts should be compensated according to the Adjunct Union rate, with the same salary per contact hour.
- If a graduate worker believes that the terms of the contract have been violated, they are entitled to initiate a grievance and must be permitted to have union representation with them at every step of the procedure.
I think that GSOC is doing important work that will have a positive long-term impact on higher education. What can I do to help?
Faculty have contributed a lot to GSOC over our campaign’s many years, most recently during our contract campaign with a public neutrality statement to which faculty from over 40 different departments added their names. Now that we have a contract, supportive faculty like you can help by learning about our contract and committing to follow (or exceed) its workplace protections, continuing to respect your graduate students’ decisions regarding their levels of participation in GSOC, and advocating for amiable relations with the union within your department. If you would like to get more involved with us or reach out to request solidarity, please get in touch with our Political Solidarity committee.