New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

NYU denies recognition to researchers’ union

In a recent letter, the university said it is “unable to voluntarily recognize” the recently-formed researchers union as an official on-campus labor group.
Shiphrah Moses
NYU leadership denied union status to NYU Researchers United. (Shiphrah Moses for WSN)

NYU said it is “unable to voluntarily recognize” NYU Researchers United, the union representing more than 2,000 researchers at the university, in a letter to the group this past Tuesday. The response comes after demands for recognition from NYU president Linda Mills over two weeks ago.

According to the letter, which was signed by an attorney for NYU, the university argued that the term “researcher” is vague and not a “singularly defined classification” on campus. NYU claimed that while some of the 210 researchers who signed the group’s initial letter for recognition are employed at the university, others are employed by outside parties or not employed at all. 

NYU spokesperson John Beckman told WSN that while the university respects the right of its employees to seek union representation, its demands are “better suited” to be addressed through the National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency charged with protecting employees’ rights to unionize or bargain for better conditions and wages as a group.

“The university has long appreciated the rights of its employees to seek union representation,” Beckman said. “The university is committed to working hard to resolve these issues through meaningful, thoughtful discussions and proceedings.”

The letter noted that NYU’s current collective bargaining agreements, including with ACT-UAW Local 7902, the union representing adjunct professors at the university, do not include workers at NYU Langone Health, the School of Law and the College of Dentistry — schools that some researchers in the group are employed by. 

The group’s initial letter asked the university to remain neutral in negotiations and not to influence researchers against unionizing. Ramin Rahni, a postdoctoral associate in the biology department, criticized the university for saying some of its researchers don’t “count as workers.”

“None of these claims are true,” Rahni wrote to WSN. “A strong majority of researchers — nearly 2,700 people — have signed authorization cards supporting the formation of our union. The idea that the research we do is somehow not work is laughable and insulting.” 

NYU Contract Faculty United, the union representing hundreds of contract faculty at the university, has also yet to be recognized by NYU, despite yearslong efforts for recognition. At NYU, contract faculty are full-time untenured professors, with contracts that are renewed every few years. Adjunct professors, on the other hand, renew their contracts every semester and usually work part-time.

While affiliated with United Auto Workers, the researchers’ union is not yet assigned to a local union like NYU’s adjunct union or graduate student union, both of which have been recognized and have contracts with the university.

“My hope was that they would agree to a similar fair process with us,” Rahni wrote. “So the fact that they do not want to even meet to discuss that possibility is disappointing, but not discouraging.”

Yezen Saadah contributed reporting.

Contact Shiphrah Moses at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Shiphrah Moses, Identity & Equity Editor
Shiphrah Moses is a sophomore studying Dramatic Writing at Tisch. She lives in the Bay Area in California, but is originally from Bangalore, India. She loves writing, acting, music and pretty much anything that involves storytelling. When she’s not doing any of the above, she’s either napping or doing her nails. You can find her at @shiphrahmoses on Instagram or contact her at [email protected].

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