NEW YORK - Some 1,800 graduate assistants and teaching assistants at New York University want their union rights - and their contract - back. And their delegation came to D.C., speaking for themselves and tens of thousands of other TAs nationwide, to demand that from the National Labor Relations Board.
Representatives of the students, members of UAW Local 2110, rode buses for 250 miles to the NLRB offices in Washington on Feb. 3, to deliver a letter asking the agency to quickly rule on the union's case for reinstatement at the institution.
"We have worked hard, been accountable to workplace procedures and rules, paid taxes on our earnings, and like other workers, supported our families and our communities," said delegation member Neil Myler, a Linguistics Department TA.
Because the NYU TAs work just like other workers, they should have the same rights to organize and bargain, added UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner, who led the delegation. "After almost two years, a decision should be put on the fast track so these workers can exercise their democratic right to form their union," she added.
The TAs and graduate assistants organized with the UAW more than a decade ago, won a recognition election and negotiated a first contract after that 2000 win, with the university. That pact expired in 2005. By then, an NLRB dominated by members named by anti-worker GOP President George W. Bush had ruled that TAs, graduate assistants, and research assistants were "students," and thus not covered by labor law. NYU, citing that ruling, refuses to recognize and bargain with the TAs and their union.
In May 2010, the students tried again, winning a ruling that at least they had the right to have their case heard on the local level. Last June, the agency's New York regional director said they had the right to organize and bargain, via their union, with NYU. But he delayed implementation of his ruling due to the Bush-era board's decision.
"We are asking the NLRB to give back what we should have by federal law: Democracy at work," said Rana Jaleel, a doctoral candidate in American Studies. "It has been a long road for us, and a decision is overdue."
"These academic workers are willing to get on a bus and deliver their message in person. That is what democracy looks like," said UAW President Bob King in a statement. "They represent an important part of our union membership and a vital movement infused with energy and determination. They deserve to have their fundamental rights restored."