Undergraduate students support GSOC on the picket line

The GSOC strike picket line has a festive atmosphere, with strikers and supporters singing, dancing and eating. Picketing began on Monday, April 26, and will continue until the union wins a new contract.

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Alexandra Chan

The GSOC strike is still ongoing. Students talk about their experiences on the picket line. (Staff Photo by Alexandra Chan)

By Mei Lamison, Staff Writer

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee began its first day of picketing on Monday, April 26, as part of the ongoing strike action. At 10 a.m., picketers carrying signs, flags and musical instruments gathered at Schwartz Plaza, on the southeast corner of Washington Square Park.

“It was great to see how both undergraduate students, graduate students, and even a few teachers were able to coalesce and unite to fight for GSOC,” Gallatin senior Jacob Keller wrote to WSN. “As everyone has been isolated [due to the pandemic], it was amazing and inspiring to see everyone come together.”

Throughout the morning, picketers marched back and forth between the plaza and Bobst Library, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Hamilton has got to go,” and “What do we want? Contracts. When do we want them? Now.” Strikers remained near campus, dancing, speaking and sharing pizza, until 2 p.m.

“The atmosphere was very inviting and supportive,” CAS senior Kai Byron said. “Everyone there was thoughtful of one another, showed support for those who spoke out, joined in chants and followed the guidelines of the strike respectfully … It was an environment that embodies true community and unity. It was very empowering, especially when grad students shared their sentiments and stories.”

Chemistry Ph.D. student, GSOC member and former GSOC steward Elsy El Khoury spoke to the picketers on Monday. She described the issues international and immigrant graduate workers face. 

“No graduate workers of color or any worker at NYU should live in fear of being harassed by the police or by ICE,”  El Khoury said. “I was there to support the provision asking that no federal agents be allowed on campus without a legal mandate.”

Along with removing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and New York City Police Department forces from campus, GSOC’s demands include higher wages, healthcare, dental care, child care benefits, and protections for international and immigrant workers. 

Monday’s crowd was composed of graduates, undergraduates, faculty members and other supporters from across the city and university. CAS first-year Tina Panda was one of the undergraduate picketers.

“I went to the picket line because I understand the importance of undergraduate alliance with GSOC,” Panda said. “The TAs are the people who go above and beyond to explain the nitpicky concepts not addressed in class lectures and grade papers of hundreds of students. I expected NYU to better compensate the people the academic sector depends on. ” 

Tisch sophomore Carlos Hernandez was another undergraduate student that participated in Monday’s picketing activities.

“I think that this conversation can ripple across universities and facilitate a real discussion on the type of exploitation that happens within academia,” Hernandez wrote to WSN. “First-generation, low-income students face the grunt of the repercussions of these institutions since we don’t have the generational wealth that has historically allowed people to attend grad school.”

GSOC’s picketers will gather at the same location every weekday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. as long as the strike continues. On Friday, April 30, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, will virtually visit the picket line at 11 a.m. and make a speech to striking graduate student workers over the phone.

Email Mei Lamison at [email protected]