GW’s Graduate Teaching Assistant-Adjunct Alliance hosted a teach-in advocating its cause Wednesday on the Quad after a labor official declared that New York University graduate teaching assistants may organize a union.
Higher education is the fastest growing section of the American labor movement, said Stanley Aronowitz, a sociology professor at City University of New York.
Aronowitz and University of Illinois English Professor Cary Nelson discussed a variety of academic labor issues, including the NYU decision.
There is no doubt that if a union comes to pass at NYU, it will be as a result of the coalition of full-time faculty and part-time faculty, Aronowitz said.
The NYU decision was the first labor decision of its kind at a private university. The decision involved a question of whether graduate students can be classified as employees. In the decision, Daniel Silverman, the regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, wrote that graduate teaching assistants can not be refused collective bargaining rights merely because they are employed by an educational institution while enrolled as a student, according to the Associated Press.
NYU Vice President Robert Berne disputed Silverman’s assessment to the Associated Press. The decision gives little recognition to the realities of modern graduate education, according to an NYU statement. He said their primary role at NYU is as students.
GW acknowledged the NYU decision.
We understand that the decision applies only in Region 2, of which GW is not a part, according to a statement released by the University.
Nelson discussed graduate teaching assistant gripes with living conditions, including little pay and no benefits.
Higher education is heading to hell in a hand basket, he said.
Nelson said one reason universities are fearful of teaching assistant unions is because they would have to triple costs for engineering and science students.
Aronowitz said organization is a necessity for all employees.
The truth of the matter is everybody needs a union, he said.
This article appeared in the April 6, 2000 issue of the Hatchet.