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NYU professors and students move classes off campus
Grad workers on strike

By Mitch Day, GSOC | November 18, 2005 | Page 15

NEW YORK--Graduate assistants at New York University (NYU) enthusiastically picketed November 9 in the cold, wind and rain on the first day of their strike for union recognition.

At its peak, around 1,000 people picketed the main administration building--including members of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee (GSOC)/United Auto Workers Local 2110, undergraduates, faculty and union activists from off-campus.

The union has now received more than 600 faculty requests for off-campus class relocation and has been able to fill at least 300, while some faculty have chosen to videotape or Podcast their lectures over the Internet.

During the past six months, GSOC has held several peaceful demonstrations showing that the majority of grads want to keep their union--from staging two mass rallies, to presenting a petition of 800 signatures, to packing an NYU "town hall" meeting. The campaign was sparked by a National Labor Relations Board ruling that graduate assistants are students not workers, giving NYU a green light to bust GSOC.

After NYU's continued refusal to negotiate, it is clear that the administration has no interest in our democratic rights and that disrupting business as usual will be the only way to bring NYU to the table.

But the current strike strategy raises several questions. Teaching assistants are asked to strike and join symbolic picket lines with the aim of embarrassing NYU and garnering support from the public. But NYU can withstand a bit of shame as long as the university can continue to perform its basic operations.

Several departments have already begun to target and intimidate striking grads, and there are reports of NYU offering money for scabs outside of the university. Last week, the administration further enraged the faculty by adding deans and administrators to online class bulletin boards of striking TAs and some faculty--which essentially amount to online scabbing and a breach of privacy.

Thousands of undergrads wear stickers in support of GSOC, and many have joined the picket line every day. As the administration further alienates undergrads and faculty, there exists the potential to ask even more students and faculty to take further steps in support of grad workers in order to disrupt university functions--and end the strike quickly on our terms.

On the picket line, people have a variety of opinions about where the strike should be going. Unfortunately, our union leadership, like most in the labor movement, runs top-down with little room for debate. Union members routinely find their suggestions and opinions blocked from discussion in membership meetings.

The potential for victory exists, and by organizing now to overcome these challenges, union members can both insure a winning strategy and take steps towards building a more democratic union.

E-mail [email protected] to tell NYU President John Sexton to bargain with GSOC.

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