GTAs demand union representation at GW

Chanting “Trachtenberg, rich and rude, we don’t like your attitude,” the Graduate Teaching Assistant Adjunct Alliance and United Auto Workers rallied at Professors’ Gate demanding union representation at GW.

Before the rally began, members of the group, who now affiliate with UAW, spoke with a production crew from CNN.

Sharon Hanscom, a part-time English instructor, who is now employed part-time as the UAW representative for GW’s campus, told CNN that GW offered little retribution to those seeking union recognition.

“Things are going to change, and we are confident that we are going to win this,” Hanscom told CNN.

Director of Public Affairs Barbara Porter declined to comment on the GTAAA’s new affiliation with the UAW. She said representatives of the GTAAA are going to be meeting Thursday with Donald Lehman, GW’s vice president for Academic Affairs.

“We want to listen to what they have to say,” Porter said. “They’re going to address some of the concerns that have been brought out.”

Hanscom said the GTAAA spent two months negotiating with the UAW for their recognition. The GTAAA and UAW will hold a vote in the hopes of receiving at least 65 percent support from GTAs and part-time faculty “at which point we will demand recognition” from GW, Hanscom said.

“Our hope is the University will respond in a reasonable manner and recognize our union,” she said.

Numerous supporters of the GTAAA and UAW spoke at the rally including Daniel Bender, a representative of the New York University Graduate Student Organizing Committee, which has UAW recognition but is not recognized by NYU.

“We became the first private school in America to file with the National Labor Relations Board,” Bender told the group of about 40 supporters. “I think you all are going to be the second.”

Bender said the NRLB is deciding whether to deem NYU teachers laborers.

“The University works because we work,” Bender said. “So if we’re not workers, what the hell are we?”

Jon White, a GTAAA and UAW organizer, told the group that they should not back down.

“We’re going to march right up to the bargaining table,” White said.

White said the upcoming meeting Thursday is a chance to exchange information. Group representatives plan on telling Lehman they expect GW to recognize their union, White said. Emily Cummins, the Student Association’s vice president for Graduate Policy, said they are going to demand recognition of their union.

Frank Korman, a part-time chemistry instructor, said he decided to come to the rally after seeing a flier in the chemistry building. Korman, who has been teaching for more than 35 years, said he supports the GTAAA and a union at GW.

“If we don’t unionize, they’re going to keep us under their heels forever,” he said.

Angela Hewett, a GTAAA supporter and an assistant professor who is not on a tenure track, said she does not fear retribution from GW.

“I feel we have a very good case and there’s no need to be afraid,” she said.

Lauren Lastrapes, co-president of the Progressive Student Union, said her group, an undergraduate organization, supports the GTAAA.

“Our education is only as good as their pay,” she said. “It’s not that the teachers are bad, it’s that they’re underpaid.”

Korman said that one class he teaches brings in revenue upward of $100,000, while he receives $3,000 for the course.

“I do most of the work, and they get 97 percent of the money,” he said.

Korman said GW uses a “divide and conquer” strategy when dealing with GTAs and part-time faculty.

“They’re just like the Nazis,” he said. “They’re using the same principals as the Nazis.”

Stephanie Batiste-Bentham, an American studies instructor, said she supports the GTAAA because “these people are vastly underpaid.”

But Korman said he thinks the timing of the rally was poor because many students had not returned to campus.

“We have to have these rallies when everyone is here,” he said. “The University is probably happy that they’re having (the rally) now because the students aren’t here.”

Bender said developing a union at GW will take time. The NYU petition drive took between nine months and a year, he said.

“The smartest thing they can do is accept the union now or otherwise they can take on a hard fight,” Bender said.

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