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NYU on Strike
T he graduate students at New York University (NYU) made history in 2001 by successfully negotiating a contract between a teachers’ assistants (TA) union and a private U.S. university. However, going into Thanksgiving break in 2005, the university still refused to negotiate with the union for a second contract. As a result some classes were cancelled while others were moved to off-campus locations.
The trouble started last year when the National Labor Relations Board reversed a previous decision that said graduate student instructors were workers. The new decision did not bar private universities from recognizing TAs unions, but made it optional. NYU’s contract with the TAs union, a local of the United Auto Workers, then expired last August.
At NYU, TAs receive stipends in exchange for their teaching services. Before they won their contract, some of them were paying for health insurance out of pocket, says Susan Valentine, a graduate student in medieval history.
In 2005 the university administration took a hard stance. “In August we proposed a new agreement: recognition of the UAW as the bargaining agent for our graduate students on economic matters (stipends, health care, employment conditions), but not academic matters,” wrote Provost David McLaughlin in a letter to NYU students in October. “We made this proposal to bridge the goals important to the university and the UAW. The union unambiguously rejected the proposal.”
Concerning “academic matters,” Valentine says that graduate students are now more invested in these than before. “The big ticket faculty members are drawn here by high salaries and low teaching loads,” said Valentine. “The graduate student TAs make up for it.”
Author Jennifer Washburn notes this trend in her book, University Inc . “NYU has been on this path of trying to raise its rankings among research institutions,” she said. “That has come at a cost.” More and more of the actual instruction for undergraduates is not done by the big name professor who attracts eager students to the university, but by overworked graduate students who often struggle to make ends meet, in addition to adjunct lecturers. Without union protection, the TAs have no way to ensure that their stipends will compensate them fairly or have a means to voice concerns in the area of teaching.
“It is steadily paying less attention to the quality and integrity of their undergraduate education,” Washburn said of the school.
Valentine feels that many undergraduates support the strikers. “Our working conditions are their learning conditions,” she said.
Ari Paul has written for In These Times, Punk Planet, Time Out Chicago , and many other publications.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.