Latest Solidarity Issue

NYU teaching and research assistants closer to union recognition


NEW YORK -- UAW members and leaders said today that union members at New York University are one step closer to overturning the controversial Brown University precedent and securing their right to organize and bargain, following a regional decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

“This decision clearly recognizes that we are employees, who work for and receive compensation from NYU,” said Jan Padios, a teaching assistant in NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis. “We’re glad we got a timely ruling. Now we’re going to take this case to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington D.C., and claim our rights as workers.”

“It’s unfortunate NYU would rather waste resources on a lengthy legal dispute, instead of recognizing our rights,” said Padios.  “We’re going to ask the NLRB for a fast and fair election, so we can confirm our majority and bargain a contract.”

NYU teaching and research assistants have repeatedly demonstrated majority support for their union, most recently verified in April 2010 by the American Arbitration Association.

“Our members at NYU have been an amazing example for all of us in the UAW,” said UAW President Bob King.  “A very narrow, very partisan decision by the labor board in 2004 tried to strip them of their rights, but these workers know better. They’re standing firm, and we’re proud to stand with them.”

Acting NLRB Regional Director Elbert Tellem, after reviewing extensive evidence from both sides, accepted the key claim presented by GSOC/UAW members:  that regardless of their admittance to the university as students, those hired to do teaching and research at NYU are university employees. Tellem wrote:

“The instant record shows that these graduate assistants are performing service under the control and direction of this Employer… the graduates have a dual relationship with the Employer which does not necessarily preclude a finding of employee status.” 

Because of precedent of the Brown decision, the case now goes to the full NLRB, where the union is confident that NYU teaching and research assistants will win back their right to organize and bargain.

“RAs and TAs at NYU have a lot in common,” said John Freudenthal a research assistant in the NYU Chemistry Department.  “Of course we should be in the same bargaining unit – we’re all working together, and we have a lot of the same concerns about our pay, our benefits and our working conditions.”

“This is a win for everybody,” said Yang Hu, a research assistant in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at NYU Polytechnic, who joined a majority of NYU Poly TAs and RAs in filing a petition for a union election in May.  “We’re all part of the same university, so when NYU workers win their right to organize, that means everybody at NYU Poly has the same rights: to sit down with our employer so we can improve our jobs.”

“Today’s a good day for UAW members at NYU,” said Julie Kushner, director of UAW Region 9A.  “We’re excited that the labor Board agrees with what we’ve been saying all along:  When you perform work and get paid for it, you’re a worker, with the same rights as all other workers.”

“We knew all along that the only way to overturn the Brown decision was to go back to the full NLRB,” said Kushner. “Now, we’re heading there with a strong factual record which gives the NLRB the opportunity to make it right.”

The UAW, one of the nation’s most diverse labor unions, represents more than 45,000 workers in higher education, including teaching assistants, research assistants, academic administrators, full-time and adjunct faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and clerical, technical and professional employees.