Things are starting to heat up around GSOC’s (the graduate worker union at NYU) capaign to win a second contract, and before a strike has even officially been announced the NYU administration is gearing up it’s union-busting campaign.

While this is certainly to be expected from a university that is run like a corporation we don’t have to swallow their rhetoric and lies. Preisdent Sexton and Provost McLaughlin recently sent out an e-mail via NYU-direct (a one-way conduit of information through which the administration can send blanket e-mails to all NYU students) with their position on the possiblity of a strike. The e-mail is full of egregious errors and many undergrads resent the universities attempt to pit undergrads against their TA’s, recognizing that the union is not our enemy, nor the university our benevolent savior.

Faculty have also responded to this anti-union public relations campaign, and below is a letter from Faculty Democracy, an organization of over 200 NYU professors. Below that is the original e-mail from Sexton and McLaughlin.

An Open Letter to the NYU Community from Faculty Democracy

As members of Faculty Democracy, an organization of over 200 NYU
professors, we would like to respond to the e-mail President John
Sexton and Provost David McLaughlin sent to undergraduates last week in
reference to the graduate teachers union and the possibility of a
strike. The President and Provost have it in their power to avert a
strike. Instead, they have chosen to exacerbate the crisis, using
provocative language to misrepresent the concerns of graduate students.

In 2000, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) – the federal body
that administers labor law — decided in a unanimous bi-partisan ruling
that graduate student teachers at private universities had the legal
right to elect union representation. That same year, a majority of
NYU’s Graduate Assistants voted in a government-sponsored election in
favor of unionization. In 2002, NYU, under the leadership of Sexton’s
predecessor Jay Oliva, negotiated a contract with the Graduate Students
Organizing Committee, or GSOC.

That contract has benefited everyone. Graduate students have, of
course, materially benefited from better wages, improved working
conditions, and expanded health care. NYU too has gained immensely, as
it is now able to attract the best applicants to our graduate programs,
making us competitive with other top-notch research universities. As
teachers and directors of graduate and undergraduate studies, moreover,
we have found that, under the contract, the university has functioned
more efficiently these last three years. Contrary to administration
claims, we have experienced no attempt by the union to set academic
policy or to institutionalize a confrontational culture between GAs and
their professors. GSOC members have acted responsibly, fully invested
in our university’s mission to provide you with a quality education.

Unfortunately, the settlement worked out in 2002 was not to last. The
Bush administration changed the composition of the NLRB to make it
harder for unions to organize. The new NLRB reversed its earlier
decision guaranteeing teaching assistants the right to unionize. This
year, as the contract signed in 2002 was set to expire, NYU
administrators took advantage of this reversal by announcing that they
would no longer recognize the union.

The Sexton/ McLaughlin letter claims that NYU made a good-faith offer
to GSOC to continue representing students on economic, rather than
academic, issues. But this is pure spin. The administration gave GSOC
48 hours to accept a contract that contradicted the very definition of
what it means to be represented by a union. It contained a clause,
for example, that, if enacted, would have prohibited outside
arbitration, requiring that all grievances be resolved not by a neutral
third party but by the NYU Provost acting unilaterally. It also would
have made it difficult for GSOC to collect dues from its members.

The Bush administration’s reversal of the 2000 NLRB decision simply
means that NYU is no longer legally required to negotiate with the
graduate students’ democratically elected representative. But we
believe that it is still morally obligated to do so. If GSOC is forced
to strike, it is only because of the administration’s intransigence.

We also take issue with the administration’s inflammatory rhetoric.
The Sexton/ McLaughlin letter invokes the image of “auto workers”
descending on our campus to disrupt your education. The letter failed
to make clear, however, that GSOC is an organization made up entirely
of members of the NYU community. It is an affiliate of the United Auto
Workers union, as are unions representing the journalists at the
Village Voice, the staff of the Museum of Modern Art, as well as
graduate students at the University of California and the University of

President Sexton and Provost McLaughlin also declare that “the standard
financial aid package received by a doctoral student as a GA is valued
in excess of $50,000 a year.” This is clever phrasing, designed to
mislead without being an outright lie. The actual graduate student
stipend is on average $19,000 a year. The rest of the package is
primarily tuition remission and other benefits – benefits, it should be
added, that were often secured for graduate students by the union.

It is in the administration’s power to avoid the disruption that they
predict but that they themselves are provoking. We call on the
administration to sit down and negotiate in good faith with the
graduate students.

Thomas Abercrombie, Anthropology, FAS
Gerard Aching, Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Rodolfo Aiello, Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Gwendolyn Alker, Drama, TSOA
Richard Allen, Cinema Studies, TSOA
Julian Everett Allgood, Bobst Library
Edwin Amenta, Sociology, FAS
Emily Apter, French, FAS
John Archer, English, FAS
Adam Becker, Classics and Religious Studies, FAS
Brigitte Bedos-Rezak, History, FAS
Zvi Ben-Dor, History and Middle Eastern Studies, FAS
Thomas Bender, History, FAS
Lauren Benton, History, FAS
Edward Berenson, History and French Studies, FAS
Renee Blake, Linguistics, FAS
Eliot Borenstein, Russian and Slavic, FAS
Neil Brenner, Sociology and Metropolitan Studies, FAS
David Brimmer, Drama, TSOA
Barbara Browning, Performance Studies, TSOA
Joy Gould Boyum, Humanities Education, Steinhardt
Jane Burbank, History, FAS
Craig Calhoun, Sociology, FAS
Eduardo Capulong, Lawyering Program, Law School
Herrick Chapman, History and French Studies, FAS
Una Chaudhuri, Drama, TSOA, and English, FAS
Vivek Chibber, Sociology, FAS
Robby Cohen, Teaching and Learning, Steinhardt
Jan Cohen-Cruz, Drama, TSOA
Christopher Collins, English, FAS
Joy Connolly, Classics, FAS
Frederick Cooper, History, FAS
Catherine Coray, Drama, TSOA
Pam Crabtree, Anthropology, FAS
Patricia Crain, English, FAS
Suzanne Cusick, Music, FAS
Laura Daigen-Ayala, Teaching and Learning, Steinhardt
Arlene Davila, American Studies and Anthropology, FAS
Patrick Deer, English, FAS
Mark Dery, Journalism, FAS
Dipti Desai, Art and Art Professions, Steinhardt
Angela Dillard, Gallatin
Carolyn Dinshaw, Gender and Sexuality and English, FAS
EL Doctorow, English, FAS
Georgina Dopico Black, Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Ana Dopico, Comparative Literature and Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Thomas Drysdale, Drama, TSOA
Lisa Duggan, American Studies and Gender and Sexuality, FAS
Stephen Duncombe, Gallatin
Troy Duster, Sociology, FAS
Ada Ferrer, History, FAS
Hartry Field, Philosophy, FAS
Alla Fil, Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Sybille Fischer, Spanish & Portuguese, FAS
JoEllen Fisherkeller, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Miriam Frank,General Studies, SCPS
Elaine Freedgood, English, FAS
Sharon Friedman, Gallatin
Everett Frost, Film and Television, TSOA
Norm Fruchter, Education Policy, Steinhardt
David Garland, Law School and Sociology, FAS
Brett Gary, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Kathleen Gerson, Sociology, FAS
Michael Gilsenan, Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology, FAS
Faye Ginsburg, Anthropology and Culture and Media, FAS
Jeff Goodwin, Sociology, FAS
Linda Gordon, History, FAS
Manu Goswami, History, FAS
Greg Grandin, History, FAS
Adam Green, American Studies, and History, FAS
Ed Guerrero, Cinema Studies, TSOA and Africana Studies, FAS
Douglas Guthrie, Sociology, FAS
Sally Guttmacher, Health Studies, Steinhardt
Yukiko Hanawa, East Asian Studies
Lynne Haney, Sociology, FAS
Phillip Brian Harper, American Studies and English, FAS
Harry Harootunian, East Asian Studies and History, FAS
Martin Harries, English, FAS
Christine Harrington, Politics, FAS
Vicki Hart, Drama, TSOA
Barbara Heyns, Sociology, FAS
Robert Hinton, Africana Studies, FAS
Martha Hodes, History, FAS
David W. Hogg, Physics, FAS
Ruth Horowitz, Sociology, FAS
Philip Hosay, International Education, Steinhardt
Diana Hughes, Psychology, FAS
Kathy Hull, General Studies, SCPS
Virginia Jackson, English, FAS
Walter Johnson, American Studies and History, FAS
Marion Kaplan, Hebrew and Judaic Studies, FAS
Rebecca Karl, History and East Asian Studies, FAS
Eric Klinenberg, Sociology, FAS
Terry Knickerbocker, Drama, TSOA
Karen Kupperman, History, FAS
Andrew Lee, Bobst Library
Susie Linfield, Journalism, FAS
Zachary Lockman, Middle Eastern Studies and History, FAS
Laurence Lockridge, English, FAS
Michele Lowrie, Classics, FAS
Robert Lubar, Institute of Fine Arts, GSAS
Steven Lukes, Sociology, FAS
Richard Maisel, Sociology, FAS
Robert Malgady, Teaching and Learning, Steinhardt
Jane Malmo, Drama, TSOA
Julie Malnig, Gallatin,
Emily Martin, Anthropology, FAS
Randy Martin, Art and Public Policy, TSOA
Paul Mattingly, History, FAS
John Mayher, Teaching and Learning, Steinhardt
John Maynard, English, FAS
Anna McCarthy, Cinema Studies, TSOA
Robert McChesney, Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, FAS
Micki McGee, Draper Program, FAS
Elizabeth McHenry, English, FAS
Mark Crispin Miller, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Toby Miller, American Studies and CLACS, FAS
Bella Mirabella, Gallatin
Nicholas Mirzoeff, Art and Art Professions, Steinhardt
Timothy Mitchell, Politics and Middle Eastern Studies, FAS
Sylvia Molloy, Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Harvey Molotch, Metropolitan Studies and Sociology, FAS
Jairo Moreno, Music, FAS
Jim Morgan, Fine Arts, FAS
Jose Munoz, Performance Studies, FAS
Judith Némethy, Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Eugène Nicole, French, FAS
Lara Nielsen, Drama, TSOA
Molly Nolan, History, FAS
Pedro Noquera, Teaching and Learning, Steinhardt
Lorie Novak, Photography and Imaging, TSOA
Tavia Nyongo, Performance Studies, TSOA
Bertell Ollman, Politics, FAS
Christopher Otter, History, FAS
Crystal Parikh, American Studies and English, FAS
Carol Parness, Teaching and Learning, Steinhardt
Cyrus Patell, English, FAS
Michael Peachin, Classics, FAS
Marta Chaves Peixoto, Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Ann Pellegrini, Religious Studies, FAS, and Performance Studies, TSOA.
Kimberly Phillips-Fein, Gallatin
Dana Polan, Cinema Studies, TSOA
Mary Louise Pratt, Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Arvind Rajagopal, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Rayna Rapp, Anthropology, FAS
Christopher Ratte, Classics, FAS
Nancy Regalado, French, FAS
Timothy Reiss, Comparative Literature, FAS
Fred Ritchin, Photography and Imaging, TSOA
Moss Roberts, East Asian Studies, FAS
Susan Rogers, Anthropology, FAS
Avital Ronell, German, FAS
Renato Rosaldo, Latino Studies and Anthropology, FAS
Andrew Ross, American Studies, FAS
Kristin Ross, Comparative Literature, FAS
Kathleen Ross, Spanish and Portugese, FAS
Jeffrey Sammons, History, FAS
Sukhdev Sandhu, A/P/A and English, FAS
Bambi Schieffelin, Anthropology, FAS
Martin Schain, Politics and European Studies; FAS
Ned Seeman, Chemistry, FAS
Richard Sennett, Sociology, FAS
Svati Shah, Gender and Sexuality, FAS
Karen Shimakawa, Performance Studies, TSOA and A/P/A, FAS
Beth Shinn, Psychology, FAS
Ella Shohat, Art and Public Policy, TSOA, and Middle Eastern Studies,
John Shovlin, History, FAS
Patrick Shrout, Psychology, FAS
George Shulman, Gallatin
Richard Sieburth, Comparative Literature and French, FAS
William Simon, Cinema Studies, TSOA
John Singler, Linguistics, FAS
Lok Siu, A/P/A and Anthropology, FAS
Robert Sklar, Cinema Studies, TSOA
Trika Smith-Burke, Teaching and Learning, Steinhardt
Alan Sokal, Physics, FAS
Jeffrey Spear, English, FAS
Judith Stacey, Gender and Sexuality and Sociology, FAS
Robert Stam, Cinema Studies, TSOA
Mitchell Stephens, Journalism, FAS
Guenther Stotzky, Biology, FAS
Lisa M. Stulberg, Humanities and Social Sciences, Steinhardt
Marita Sturken, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Eduardo Subirats, Spanish and Portuguese, FAS
Constance Sutton, Anthropology, FAS
Diana Taylor, Performance Studies, TSOA
Jack Tchen, A/P/A and Gallatin
Paul Thompson, Film and Television, TSOA
Sinclair Thomson, History, FAS
Elayne Tobin, General Studies, SCPS
Diana Turk, Teaching and Learning, Steinhardt
Jim Uleman, Psychology, FAS
Siva Vaidhyanathan, Culture and Communication, Steinhardt
Keith Vincent, Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies, FAS
Robert Vorlicky, Drama, TSOA
Joanna Waley-Cohen, History, FAS
Daniel Walkowitz, History and Metropolitan Studies, FAS
Marc Walters, Chemistry, FAS
John Waters, English, FAS
Ellen Willis, Journalism, FAS
Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Psychology and Public Policy, FAS
Marilyn Young, History, FAS
George Yudice, American Studies and CLACS, FAS
Caitlin Zaloom, Metropolitan Studies and American Studies, FAS
Xudong Zhang, Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies, FAS
Edward Ziter, Drama, TSOA
Angela Zito, Religious Studies and Anthropology, FAS

Original e-mail:

From: NYU President John Sexton and Provost David McLaughlin
Sent: Thursday, October 20, 2005 3:33 pm
Subject: A Message to NYU Students

Dear NYU Student –

By now many of you are aware that the United Auto Workers is publicly
discussing a job action involving graduate assistants (GAs) at NYU in the near

In our opinion, the Auto Workers union is embarking on a regrettable and
unfortunate course: regrettable because it fails to respect the significance
of your efforts to pursue your education, and unfortunate because such an
action will not result in recognition of the UAW to represent our graduate

We understand that the possibility of a job action is the last thing you need
at this point in the school year. We want to reassure you that the University
will maintain your academic progress.

Because you, as students, are the ones who will directly experience the impact
of the union’s actions, it is important that you understand how we arrived at
this point. Between 2001 and August 2005, we had a contract with the UAW; they
promised not to interfere with academic decision-making, but they did not keep
their word.

The National Labor Relations Board has made clear that there is no legal
obligation for NYU to recognize a GA union. No private university in the
country now has unionized graduate assistants, and neither do 80 percent of
public research universities.

Yet NYU, in spite of the UAW’s challenging history in representing our graduate
assistants, once again went further than any other private university: we began
conversations with the United Auto Workers this past May, and in August these
conversations culminated in a proposal to the UAW to be the bargaining
representatives of graduate assistants on economic (stipends, benefits, and
terms), rather than academic, issues.

Unfortunately, the UAW rejected our offer unequivocally. We went as far as
possible to achieve a compromise where there could be a GA union without
sacrificing important academic principles, but we were unwilling to have
graduate students lose their financial aid packages if they chose not to join
the union, and we were unwilling to permit the union to interfere with academic
decision-making. The union was unwilling to give up on these items. We
believe this was a significant mistake on the union’s part, but we have moved

We value all our students deeply. NYU’s graduate assistants are among the best
supported in the country: with stipends, health benefits, and tuition
remission, the standard financial aid package received by a doctoral student as
a GA is valued in excess of $50,000 per year. Equally important, we have
pledged to continue supporting our graduate students in the future.

The United Auto Workers union has been publicly discussing the prospects of
engaging in a job action for quite some time; accordingly, the University has
been planning for this possibility. Regardless of whether or not some GAs
strike, the University will remain open, and you should plan on attending your
classes and participating in your regularly scheduled activities. We have been
faculty members and administrators at NYU for decades, and we believe that our
faculty colleagues, recognizing the professional responsibility that
accompanies the trust you have placed in NYU to educate you, will hold classes,
and ensure your academic progress.

If there is a disruption, you will promptly hear from your school’s dean, who
will provide you with further information and give you contact information
should you have any concerns or questions.

We cannot promise you there will be no disruptions, but we are working hard to
ensure that they are minimal. We believe that a large majority of GAs will
continue to fulfill their teaching responsibilities. The University and its
deans, faculty, and administrators will do whatever is necessary to guarantee
that your hard work this semester is not put at risk, that your academic
program and course work will be completed, and that those of you who are
scheduled to graduate will do so.


John Sexton David McLaughlin
President Provost

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