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NYU Graduate Employees Call for Fair Election, Not More Legal Action

GSOC/UAW photo

More than 1,100 graduate student employees at New York University (NYU) and NYU-Poly have signed and delivered a letter to the university’s administration urging the school to respect their choice to join a union.

The letter was delivered in anticipation of a decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that could reverse a 2004 decision by the then Bush-administration-controlled NLRB holding that graduate teaching and research assistants at private universities were not employees protected by federal labor law.

The NYU graduate student employees voted to join the UAW in 2001 and the university recognized their choice and negotiated a contract that boosted pay benefits and rights. But when the agreement expired in 2005, NYU refused to negotiate to renew it.

Matt C. Canfield, a doctoral student and teaching assistant in the anthropology department who is a member of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/UAW (GSOC/UAW), says the NYU administration is giving signals that if the NLRB rules in favor of the graduate employees, it will appeal the decision.

We sent a strong message to NYU and NYU—Poly…We delivered our open letter to faculty leadership and the NYU administration as part of continued effort to establish our union.

The letter urges the NYU and NYU-Poly administration “to commit to respecting union and democratic rights for graduate employees.” It asks that if the NLRB restores collective bargaining rights of graduate employees at private universities,  NYU will pledge to:

  • Refrain from any further legal action;
  • Ensure a free and fair election process and remain neutral; and
  • Bargain in good faith if a majority of graduate employees vote to join the UAW. 

Paul Duffell, who works as a research assistant and teaching assistant in Physics, says:

NYU and NYU-Poly should agree to respect the democratic process and bargain in good faith if that's what the majority chooses in a fair election.

The upcoming decision stems from a 2010 NLRB election petition  filed by the GSOC/UAW and a 2011 petition by Scientists and Engineers Together/UAW.  Says Canfield:

This case is key for organizing graduate student employees at private universities. It's a right that already exists for graduate student [employees] at [many] public universities....We're hoping for the same rights.

The right to organize for graduate student employees exists at universities including the University of California (all 8 campuses), University of Michigan and the University of Massachusetts . 

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