“NYU is saddened by the choices the United Auto Workers has made: the union made an error during the first contract with NYU by breaking their promise not to interfere with academic decision-making, they made an error in rejecting our offer for a second contract, and they’re making an error now. The UAW’s current threats of disruption are divisive, anti-student, and the wrong thing to do.
“Our instructors — faculty and GAs — recognize the trust our students place in them, and we believe they will live up to their professional responsibilities. While NYU values the freedom to express of differences of opinion, there’s no justification for harming our students’ education as a mode of expression. The University cherishes its graduate students as an important part of our community, and our generous support for them will not flag. In the face of the union’s threats, NYU’s focus will be on sustaining all our students’ academic progress - graduate and undergraduate - and minimizing the disruption threatened by the autoworkers union. Our classes and activities will go forward.”
“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 at least $50,000: free tuition ($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.
The University has established a website with information at www.nyu.edu/provost/ga.