From the Nation
The First Contract
After being decertified in 2005, New York University’s graduate student union, GSOC-UAW,received recognition as the first and only graduate student union at a private university in the country in 2013. On March 10 at 2 AM, following a year of grueling contract negotiations and on the day of our deadline to strike, NYU agreed to a settlement with remarkable material gains for workers and significant concessions in every unresolved area—including immediate 50 percent wage increases for the lowest paid workers, guaranteed wage increases for the rest, 90 percent healthcare coverage for the majority of the workforce without it and the establishment of family healthcare and childcare funds. This victory reflects the power of democratic, rank-and-file-led unionism. Under the leadership of NYU Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, we grew an active base of graduate workers with ties to the broaderNYU community. With this structure in place, an eleventh-hour university-wide anti-union e-mail sent by an NYU provost was met with protests and petitions from undergraduates and ridicule from the university community at large. On the night of bargaining, dozens waited outside negotiations with “GSOC on strike” flags, manifesting a credible strike threat that ultimately forced the administration to cave in.
—Shelly Ronen and Ella Wind
Gainsville Sun, October 14, 2014
McLaughlin expanded faculty governance, including both tenure-track and non-tenure elected faculty representatives on committees, Vintinner said. As a result, participation in faculty governance increased.
But he also had a hand in ending the first union of graduate student workers at a private university, in 2005, when he and NYU executive vice president Jacob Lew refused to negotiate a new contract at the end of the union’s fifth year of existence.
Since then, “We’ve had a really long and hard fight for a contract negotiation,” said Shelly Ronen, a graduate student in NYU’s sociology department and a member of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee’s bargaining unit.
GSOC and university administration are currently negotiating a new contract for graduate student workers, although Ronen said the two sides are having difficulty reaching an agreement.
McLaughlin hasn’t had much of a role in labor negotiations in the last several years.
However, Ronen said, “I think graduate workers at the University of Florida need to be watching this decision very carefully.”
read the whole piece here.
Brooklyn Rail, October 3, 2014
After months of negotiation with the school failed to produce a labor agreement for the G.S.O.C. during the spring, the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (A.W.D.U.) swept elections for positions on the bargaining committee at the beginning of the fall semester. Running on a platform of increased democratization of union activities and increased transparency of negotiations, the A.W.D.U.galvanized the graduate student body, with voter turnout much higher than during the previous round of elections. Their opponents, Make History Again, did not lose the support that had earlier put them in charge but were swept out of office by hundreds of new voters supporting A.W.D.U.
Now armed with a mandate to implement their more ground-up, participatory approach, A.W.D.U. looks to get a contract in place without ceding the overly generous concessions offered to the school during the last round of negotiations. Foci range from “bread-and-butter” issues like wage increases, health insurance coverage—including coverage for family members—and protections for lost income due to cancelled classes to more specialized issues of child-care assistance, lactation rooms, and stability for international students in job placement. Special attention is also being given to the conditions of workers at the Polytechnic Institute. When interviewed, the bargainers-elect—David Klassen, Ayesha Omer, Shelly Ronen, and Ella Wind—expressed optimism that the increasingly energized base would be able to secure such a strong contract. The input and zeal of more members, they hope, will overcome the weakened position of the outgoing administration and result in a more favorable deal. Their strategy is one of “revival from below.”2
“Everyone needs to be reading the blog of the bargaining committee and knowing what’s going on, who are the main characters and what we’re up against,” explained Ronen. “And people should come to bargaining sessions. That’s going to be the real fun. I want to sit across the table from negotiators with a bunch of excited colleagues in my unit standing behind me, backing me up—and holding me accountable.” Maintaining the energy of the campaign will be essential for theA.W.D.U. committee members if they hope to achieve the robust package of concessions that they aim for.
Read the whole piece here.