A federal judge ruled that an attempt to subpoena NYU Law students Luke Herrine and Leo Gertner violates their First Amendment rights. The subpoena was issued by Daniel Straus, a former NYU board of trustee, and his company CareOne Management.
The two students were subpoenaed last spring after writing a letter critical of Straus. The letter discussed Straus’ unjust practices including his efforts to limit sick and vacation days, freeze pensions and restrict the formation of unions for his workers.
This is not the first time Straus has been under the microscope for the poor treatment of his workers. The federal labor board has noticed several labor law violations at his companies.
As part of the subpoena, students were asked to present emails, text messages, social media postings, letters, notes, diary entries and any other information expressing support for 1199SEIU United Health Workers East, a labor union that supports health care employees in the eastern United States.
The judge rejected most parts of the subpoena and ruled requiring the students to submit any evidence of communication between them and other NYU Law students was “outside the scope of relevance” of the case. The students were still required to turn over any documentation related to payments between them and the union by Jan. 23.
Gertner said he is satisfied by the outcome of the case, because it makes it clear that students should be allowed to speak openly about perceived injustices.
“I am happy that the judge saw the injustice of hampering our right to speak freely on campus about the abuses we perceived CareOne to be perpetrating against its workers,” Gertner said.
A 1199SEIU spokesman said students should not hold back from voicing their concerns about unjust practices simply because it involves exposing school trustees. Additionally, they emphasized the importance of the problems health workers face.
“This ruling sends the message that students should not be subjected to intimidation for holding their universities’ trustees accountable for the misconduct of their companies,” the spokesman said. “It’s important to remember that the nursing home workers who these students stood up for continue to struggle for decent wages, benefits and their legally protected right to form a union within their facilities.”
Herrine hoped the rights the court granted them by the court will also extend to the health care workers at Straus’ companies.
“I am glad our First Amendment rights were vindicated, and I hope the same for the SEIU and the workers it represents,” Herrine said.
The union said they will not give up on trying to improve working conditions at the companies run by Straus.
“The workers of CareOne, and all the health care workers of 1199SEIU, will continue to hold Daniel Straus’ companies accountable and lawfully stand up for working families and nursing home residents,” the union said.
The university declined to comment on the decision.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 26 print edition. Email Marita Vlachou at [email protected]