Tea Party loses again: NYU grad students defy obstruction in precedent-setting 98 percent union vote

After right-wing antics and liberal union-busting denied them their union, NYU grad students just won it back

Topics: NYU, UAW, new york university, United Auto Workers, Jack Lew, Cheryl Mills, Barack Obama, george bush, Bill Clinton, academy, Labor, , , ,

Tea Party loses again: NYU grad students defy obstruction in precedent-setting 98 percent union voteJohn Boehner, Jack Lew, Ted Cruz (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

The United Auto Workers announced late Wednesday night that graduate students at New York University had voted — by a 49-to-1 margin – to join the union, and make theirs the only private university in the country where grad students bargain collectively over the conditions of their teaching and research work.

In a late night statement, anthropology teaching assistant Natasha Raheja hailed the “huge victory” and said the union was “determined to reach an agreement on a strong union contract by the end of this academic year.” Reached over email, NYU executive vice president Robert Berne told Salon the university had stayed neutral “to permit the graduate students to express their views,” and would “now enter what we expect to be productive negotiations with the union.”

As I reported Monday, the vote followed an eight-year struggle set off when NYU announced it would no longer bargain with its grad students, and a months-long strike failed to force the administration to change its stance. While public university graduate student unions are legion (and played key roles in California’s Occupy movement and Wisconsin’s resistance to Scott Walker), NYU had been the first and only private school to recognize a graduate student union. After George Bush National Labor Relations Board appointees voted in 2004 to reverse a Clinton-era precedent and push grad students outside the protections of New Deal labor law, NYU mounted a campaign against the union, which the UAW charged would otherwise have been illegal. Past and future Democratic officials Cheryl Mills and Jack Lew – since tapped by the Obama administration as Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff and U.S. Treasury secretary, respectively — both played roles in NYU’s response to the strike.

While GSOC made Obama’s 2008 election a priority in hopes of winning NLRB appointees who would restore Clinton-era precedent and thus their collective bargaining rights, a mix of Republican obstruction, Democratic recalcitrance, and judicial roadblocks repeatedly pushed back the already-slow time frame for that hoped-for result. NYU professor Andrew Ross, who co-edited a volume on the strike, told Salon that with GSOC facing a potential recusal of one of the NLRB’s more pro-labor new members, and NYU’s administration “in a state of siege” over multiple controversies, both sides had a reason to resolve the conflict. Under the deal announced last month, NYU stayed neutral in the election (overseen by the American Arbitration Association), and agreed to recognize and bargain with the union if it won; the UAW agreed to the withdrawal of its NLRB case, and to leave six “hard sciences” departments out of the deal.



By leaving the Bush precedent in place, that deal may mean that graduate student workers remain excluded from labor law for years to come. But activists at NYU and elsewhere argued before the vote that campaigns on other campuses would draw momentum from the example of a private university agreeing anyway, after years of pressure, to collective bargaining. After years in which many schools’ campaigns lost momentum while waiting for a never-realized NLRB victory, argued Ross, “the frustrating experience has been quite valuable, I think, as a lesson that organizing can’t stop and wait – it has to be going on in tandem with the legal process.”

Given the risk of a recusal, “it no longer seemed like an appropriate strategy to wait for the NLRB,” graduate student Matthew Canfield, a member of the organizing committee of one of the UAW NYU locals, told Salon last week.  “But I also think, as a larger movement-building strategy, it’s important that graduate student workers stand up and organize themselves, and make the case to universities that they are ready to be recognized as employees, and can productively form relationships with universities through unionization.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 17
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    John Stanmeyer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

    Lu Guang

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

    Carolyn Cole/LATimes

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

    Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

    Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

    Garth Lentz

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

    Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

    Yann Arthus-Bertrand

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

    Stephanie Sinclair

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

    Mike Hedge

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

    Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

    Daniel Dancer

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

    Peter Essick

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

    Daniel Beltra

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

    Ian Wylie

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Slide 13

    Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

    R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

    Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

    Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...