One-minute video of the picket - 17M

This morning marked the beginning of a strike that will not end until the one of the country’s most prestigious universities agrees to meet its own workers at the bargaining table.
More than 1,000 people rallied outside of New York University all day today in support of the graduate student workers, who plan on continuing their strike and thereby disrupting the daily functioning of the school itself until a simple demand is met—to be able to work under a contract. Joining the striking graduate students today were undergraduates, faculty, staff, construction workers, community members, union organizers, and others not just from NYU, but from schools and workplaces all over the area.
“We’re ready to stay out here as long as it takes,” said Michael Palm, chairman of the graduate employee’s union GSOC/UAW Local 2110. The union, which was the first graduate student union to win a contract with a private university in the United States, authorized today’s strike on Oct. 31, 2005, two months after working without a contract.
Graduate students make up an essential part of the workforce at NYU, and when they stop doing such work, it causes “a major disruption for the university,” Palm said. Approximately 500 faculty members who are not striking are moving classes off-campus so as to not cross the picket line. Two classes were held in the fountain of Washington Square Park at around noon, in the midst of the picket.
According to a GSOC press release, the graduate students had been working under a contract for three years. It expired on Aug. 31, 2005, at which point there was a rally outside of the Bobst Library, which resulted in 76 arrests. Since that time, the administration has cut graduate student health benefits without notice, and maintains their refusal to renew, partially because they don’t have to.
A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision made in July 2004 mandates that graduate employees at private universities are not covered under the National Labor Relations Act, and therefore NYU is not legally obligated to renew.
Graduate teaching assistant and member of GSOC’s bargaining committee Elizabeth Loeb said the reason NYU allowed the union to form in the first place was because they were directed to do so. Now the school is not even negotiating.
“I don’t think that the university is even pretending to say that they’re putting in a good-faith effort,” Loeb said.
“We have given them many opportunities to come to the [bargaining] table with us,” said Mitch Day, a graduate teaching assistant in neuroscience. According to Day, the school is refusing to negotiate because, unlike decades ago, the school is becoming more and more corporate and thus neglecting the standards of such educational professions.
“This is part of a larger fight against the corporatization of the university in the United States,” Day said, adding that that trend operates in the even broader context of neo-liberalist policies invading the entire world—policies in which free trade and union busting are becoming the norm.
“That neo-liberalist policy is happening in the microcosm of the university,” he said.
Professor of American Studies Andrew Ross specified quite a few correlations between the infrastructure of NYU and that of corporations. According to Ross, their use of the union-busting law firm Proskauer Rose is just one obvious indication of the similarities.
He said NYU also uses the same “tactics and intimidation” as corporate structures use, along with an increased centralization of decision-making power. These factors, along with decreased job security for workers and the erosion of tenure, is leading to what Ross calls the “casualization” of the university workforce. And why is this happening?
Ross, for one, does not know what the motivation is behind such cost-cutting.
“Nothing is transparent here,” he said.
GSOC expects the picket to continue tomorrow, and everyday thereafter until the university joins them at the bargaining table.