NYU graduate employees win back union with 98% majority

Neutrality agreement paves the way for UAW representation after 8-year struggle

NEW YORK -- A majority of voting graduate employees at New York University chose to unionize in an historic election held on Dec. 10 and 11 that was certified by the American Arbitration Association late today. With a resounding 98 percent voting for representation by the UAW, NYU once again becomes the only private university in the U.S. with collective bargaining rights for graduate employees.

A groundbreaking Nov. 26 election and neutrality agreement between NYU and the Graduate Student Organizing Committee/UAW (GSOC/UAW) and Scientists and Engineers Together/UAW (SET/UAW) led to the election. The positive vote creates a bargaining unit of 1,247 graduate, research and teaching assistants (GAs, TAs and RAs) across NYU and the Polytechnic Institute of NYU, which expands the unit beyond the number of classifications covered under the previous contract that ended in 2005.

“This is a huge victory that puts us in a position to negotiate for the things that really matter to us,” said Natasha Raheja, a doctoral candidate and TA in Anthropology at NYU. “We are determined to reach an agreement on a strong union contract by the end of this academic year.”

The election and neutrality agreement set a positive tone for the election, built the foundation for a productive bargaining relationship with the administration, and serves as a model for graduate employees aspiring to organize at other private institutions across the country. Key provisions included:

  •  A commitment by the NYU administration – including department chairs, directors of graduate studies, and others – to remain neutral and refrain from influencing the election.
  • Provision for a neutral arbitrator to resolve any pre-election disputes within 48 hours.
  •  An agreement by the NYU administration to bargain in good faith for a contract upon certification of a majority vote in favor of unionization.

In a joint statement issued after the neutrality agreement was reached, the UAW and NYU expressed confidence that the agreement will “improve the graduate student experience” and “sustain and enhance NYU’s academic competitiveness.”

“Without an employer-driven campaign, the hostility and divisiveness that too often surrounds union votes never materialized. This election stands out as one of the most positive, democratic processes I’ve ever experienced,” said UAW Region 9A Director Julie Kushner. “NYU’s genuine commitment to neutrality fostered a remarkably respectful environment in which graduate employees were free to choose representation without threats or intimidation. For many, it was a celebration of their right to vote and an important affirmation of their valuable role in the NYU community. This election should be the start of a tremendous shift among university administrations across the country toward embracing the voices of dedicated, hardworking graduate employees like those at NYU.”

“The UAW of the 21st century is committed to finding common ground with employers to establish fair practices that allow workers to decide on union representation without employer interference and without fear and intimidation,” said UAW President Bob King. “We commend the NYU administration for allowing NYU graduate employees to exercise their democratic right to freely choose representation. NYU is a recognized leader among educational institutions globally; we hope this will serve as a model that inspires other private universities across the country to pursue similar agreements that recognize workers’ rights to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives and their campuses,” King added.

The UAW represents more than 45,000 academic workers across the U.S., including graduate employees at the University of Massachusetts, University of Washington, University of California and California State University.

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