December 05, 2005

Strike-Breaking at NYU

NYU's graduate student teaching assistants are unionized, and have been for several years, but the National Labor Relations Board recently reversed itself and ruled that the university did not have to recognize the union or negotiate with it. The teaching assistants are now on strike, apparently with wide support from the faculty (so that the administration has been snooping through course websites to see who the faculty sympathizers are). To break the strike, NYU's president, John Sexton, is threatening to withhold the whole semester's stipend from any TAs who are not back to work by today, and that any TAs who strike next semester will lose their stipend for the whole year. I understand withholding wages during a strike, but this is simply vicious, and so far as I can work out would be illegal in any normal labor dispute. (Of course Sexton's position is that the TAs are not really employees, which is hogwash.) You can sign a petition against this travesty via Faculty Democracy at New York University. Leaving aside the claims of justice and elementary fairness, how many other chances will you have to agree with Andrew Ross and Alan Sokal?

(Surveying the treatment of our graduate student employees from the lofty perch of half a year on the faculty, it seems to me that CMU, at least in the statistics department, treats them pretty well, and much better than we had it at Madison when I was a TA there, and a member of AFT local #3220. But still, if they wanted to unionize, I'd be completely behind them, and I think it's idiotic and reprehensible for universities to refuse to even recognize and negotiate with graduate student unions. Unions can ask for stupid and/or selfish things, of course — which distinguishes them from any other organization how, exactly? — but the merits of particular proposals isn't the issue here; punishing people who attempt to organize to exert their rights is.)

Via John Burke (in e-mail) and Michael Bérubé; reporting and photos of the strike from Majikthise.

Update, 7 December 2005: I now see that Asad Raza, one of the strikers, has been filing dispatches (1, 2) at Three Quarks Daily.

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