Monday, November 14, 2005

I'm SOOOOOOO pro union. BUT...

This whole union strike by the graduate assistants here at NYU is RIDICULOUS!

I am a member of Actors Equity Association, I've been part of strikes, I believe in NOT crossing picket lines, I am about as Pro-union as it gets.

But I cannot endorse the current GA strike against NYU.

1) the graduate students have to pay union dues, and receive NO benefits from them. NYU pays all of their health insurance.

2) in order for a person to become vested in their pension, one usually needs to invest 5 years to the union. Um, Grad school is only 3 years long (for most people...)

3) after graduation, there will be NO work for them within the AUTO WORKERS union.

4) they are students, they applied to NYU to learn and get a degree, not to be a union member.

I could go on, and I'm sure there are TONS of folks out there who would disagree with me. Please share your views, honestly, I'm curious to hear something that could change my mind. As I said before I'm WAY PRO UNION. but this is not the way to go. there are other ways for them to get their needs met.


Anonymous said...

Shelli, I was part of a strike like that four years ago and have to say the following: students in my department received about 4 times the salary and benefits of say, GAs in the English department. On top of that, there was a huge variance in the expected amount of work one did for their support (i.e. graders and people teaching their own course were getting paid the same) while it's annoying, unionizing is not ridiculous (now, why the AUTO Workers union is the one to cover GAs is beyond me -- we always joked about this as well)

Yana (from Y&J)

vixanne wigg said...

I just can't believe that's still going on. They were starting that when I was there and that was 5 years ago!

The pay for TAs does suck at NYU (and probably everywhere else for that matter), but I can't say I ever got involved in that debate.

---So what is the NEWS??????

***PS. Do you know any nice guys for my friend MAH? He needs a good boyfriend in the NYC area.

Jen said...

I think all your points are valid, Shel, but they don't relate to the terms of the strike. What are they striking for? What other tactics have they tried? Without knowing these things, I can't say whether I think the strike is reasonable or not, you know?

Anonymous said...

1. The union dues we pay are very minimal, and those dues maintain staff to handle grievances and set up a strike fund in case it's needed. There are only a few unions, AEA being one of them (which explains your misunderstanding) that provide benefits directly to their members. Most of those unions represent workers who move from short term job to short term job (i.e., construction trades and the arts). GA's (like autoworkers) stay with the same employer for years, and thus pay lower dues and get health benefits from their employer, as is commonly done.

2. It's true, we're not asking for, nor likely to vest in a pension. That is not why we're on strike. Also, note that the majority of the GAs are in PhD programs that take five (or more) years to complete. Pensions are not the only reason to unionize.

3. The UAW represents more academic labor (including organized faculty) than any other union, so you might not be right (though you most likely are). Unlike AEA, we didn't join the union as a career move to help us get work, but rather as a way to get a voice in the job we already had. For the very small dues we're paying, we decided it's worth it.

4. We're also human beings, spending five or more years of our lives living on very little, doing work that is crucial to the university's success. I'm not sure why being a student disqualifies us from wanting health benefits or a reasonable grievance procedure.

I hope you swing by the picket line and ask some questions. It sounds to me like you've learned about unions with AEA as your framework, and in that context, what we're doing might not sound like it makes sense. To us, however, this feels like a pretty crucial fight.

jenny said...

Why are they striking? Grad TAs and RAs have different needs than your run of the mill worker, for the reasons you mentioned, but there are reasons to unionize.

I wish the RAs and TAs at my university would unionize becuase then we would be able to fight the university when it decides to suddenly change the rules about who is eligible for teaching positions and what comes with those teaching assistantships. For instance, they recently decided to create this whole new type of teaching position: lets call it a "grad student who teaches" this person is different from Teaching assistants but not an adjunct. Translation: they will get paid the same as teaching assistants for teaching a class, but will not get the benfits that adjunct professors get and only teaching assistants will get a tuition waiver . This is bullsh$t and if we were unionized it never would have happened. It is basically screwing over Phd students who have been at the school for more than 3 years. Don't they want people to graduate?

Shelli said...

thank you all for your intelligent, and thoughtful words. It's giving me a lot to think about.