In the past two weeks, members of NYU’s Student Labor Action Movement staged two protests over the unfair and illegal actions of NYU School of Law trustee Daniel Straus.
Straus, who funds the Straus Institute for Advanced Study of Law and Justice with annual donations of $1.25 million, has been under fire for nearly a year because of a dispute with workers at one of the nursing homes he runs in Connecticut. Workers there, who are members of the Service Employees International Union, have been on strike for two months — since Straus’ company implemented a new contract without the consent of the workers. The new contract includes deep cuts to workers’ pay and benefits.
Straus and his company are now being prosecuted by the National Labor Relations Board. According to the NLRB, the contract that Straus’ company, HealthBridge Management, came up with and tried to impose was unfair, and the company used illegal tactics to try to force workers and the union to accept it.
This sort of behavior towards workers is unacceptable, and it is shocking that an NYU trustee — especially one who donates to the study of law and justice — is the culprit here. Straus gives the fellows at the Institute $100,000 a year for research, while paying his nurses only $32,000 a year. A Straus fellowship includes a lunch allowance, while his nursing home employees had their paid lunch hours cut as part of his new contract.
During the first of NYU SLAM’s protests against Straus last week, counter-protesters showed up and threatened the students and striking workers. SLAM members and striking workers who were at the protest believe Straus hired these union thugs to interrupt a peaceful protest. While these claims have not been proven, it is hard to imagine who else would have wanted to interrupt a student protest that badly. I doubt the people who threatened protesting students felt so strongly that HealthBridge Management was definitively right in a situation in which they — the union thugs — were not personally involved.
It is still unclear whether Straus arranged for union busters to disturb the protest and threaten students. But NYU should be investigating these accusations very seriously. If Straus is guilty of trying to violently disrupt a peaceful student protest, he should be removed as a trustee immediately. Even if Straus did not break the law on the NYU campus, the university must investigate and censure him for breaking it in his unfair treatment of union workers.
The NLRB case involving Straus has not clowed yet, and perhaps the university should postpone judgment until the case is resolved. But if the illegality — not to mention the immorality — of Straus’ actions is proven, the university must seriously consider whether Daniel Straus is the sort of person whose name should be part of Institute for Law and Justice.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 24 print edition. Jess Littman is deputy opinion editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Weekend Roam: Little Germany
- WSN Editorial Board reflects on spring semester events
- Strawberry Festival promises delicious, intergalactic fun
- Clive Davis Institute collaborates with DJ Swivel
- Best places to dine on dumplings
- 'Heroes' is not super enough for Xbox Live film program launch
- NYU SLAM sees victory through 'badidas' campaign
- Victoria Ettore elected student council president
- Hester Street Fair hosts diverse vendors, delicious food