“NYU’s classes are going forward, teaching and learning is going on, and our students are pursuing their educations.
“Any disruption to our students’ education, even a minor one, is lamentable. NYU supports the rights of its students, faculty, and administrators to express their views on any issues, including graduate assistant unionization; however, the University believes that the vast majority of those teaching will continue to fulfill their professional responsibilities to their students. NYU will remain focused on sustaining our students’ academic progress and, working with graduate student groups, on creating an exceptional educational environment for graduate students.”
“Graduate assistants” - or GAs - are not employees; they are graduate students who have “assistantship” semesters as part of their financial aid packages. No private universities have unionized graduate assistants, and neither do 80 percent of public research universities. The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that because GAs are students, universities do not have an obligation to bargain collectively.
NYU’s graduate assistants are among the best supported in the country: they receive a financial package of some $50,000: free tuition (some $30K), minimum $19K stipend, and 100% payment of their health care premiums ($2K); their assistant responsibilities take about 20 hours per week. They have already received an increase in their stipends in $1000 this year (over 5%), with pledges for same amount for the next 2 years (much higher than those received by other graduate assistants, and higher than recent city settlements), as well as continuation of 100% of health care premiums paid for by NYU.
From 2001 till this past August, NYU had a contract with the United Auto Workers as representatives of the graduate assistants, the only private university to do so. They had promised in writing not to interfere with academic decision-making, but they broke their promise. In spite of this, NYU once again went further than any other private university, and made a proposal to the UAW in early August. The UAW rejected it unequivocally, indicating that they were unwilling to address NYU’s concerns about interference with academic decision-making and union’s demand that GAs who chose not to pay union dues lose their scholarships.
A graduate student working group has begun work on a new grad student grievance procedure and a rights-and-responsibilities compact, and the senior leadership of the University are consulting with other elected grad student representatives on matters of concern to graduate students.