Graduate students, NYU still at standstill

The battle over working conditions for graduate student workers continued on Nov. 11, as the Graduate Student Organizing Committee, the union for graduate employees at NYU, continued its bargaining with the university’s administration. GSOC is negotiating for better wages, health care and working conditions at both the Washington Square campus and the Polytechnic School of Engineering in Brooklyn.

Over 50 GSOC members and supporters, including undergraduate students and faculty members, gathered in support of the movement at the bargaining session. No significant progress was made, however, and the university continues to request that a mediator be brought in for the negotiations. The university is also calling for more of GSOC’s plan to be modified.

Natasha Raheja, a GSAS doctoral student and lead member of the bargaining committee, said GSOC will not fold in the face of the university’s intimidation techniques. She explained that GSOC is adamant with its demands and will not relent until they are met.

“They have consistently told us that we have to drop part of our proposal, but these are all things that graduate students need,” Raheja said. “We’re not going to drop health care, and we’re not going to drop wage increases.”

GSOC and the university have been in bargaining since February, but NYU has not presented proposal changes since May. GSOC made modifications to their demands in September and said it is the administration’s turn to take the next step.

NYU spokesman John Beckman said the university wishes to make progress at the bargaining table and hopes that GSOC will work to meet the university halfway.

“Both sides expressed a desire to make progress on the contract, which NYU very much wants,” Beckman said. “However, we remain puzzled why the union is unwilling to say ‘yes’ to having a non-binding, impartial mediator come in and help both sides come together.”

Lily Defriend, a GSAS student and member of the bargaining committee, said she was frustrated by the university’s lack of ability to understand their side and make progress toward an agreement.

“It seemed like last semester the administration was moving at least in the direction that we wanted to go in, even though the proposal last semester was woefully inadequate,” Defriend said. “We feel that nothing we’re doing now is moving them forward.”

Shelly Ronen, a GSAS student  and member of the bargaining committee, said she is disappointed that the university has not budged since May. She added that GSOC will continue to escalate its actions and display the broad support of the community to put pressure on NYU and show that the world is watching.

“If necessary, we may have to halt the operations of the university to the extent that we can,” Ronen said. “We will do anything that’s necessary to win a strong contract.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 12, print edition. Email Alex Bazeley at [email protected]

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