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

Researcher union files petition for recognition with federal agency

The petition comes after NYU denied the union’s initial request for recognition, and is the first step in a process that could lead to involuntary recognition from the university.
Shiphrah Moses
NYU Researchers United (Shiphrah Moses for WSN)

NYU’s researcher union filed a petition for recognition with the National Labor Relations Board on Tuesday, and also delivered over 2,700 authorization cards signed by union members to the federal agency. The move comes after NYU rejected the group’s initial demand for union status and told researchers to take their concerns to the NLRB. 

The petition included 73 different positions at NYU in the union, NYU Researchers United, such as graduate junior researchers, graduate research assistants and law research assistants. The university has argued that because the term “researcher” is unclear and not a “singularly defined classification,” researchers should not be able to organize under one union.

“We are prepared to present witnesses and evidence in NLRB hearings to make the case for our union,” NYU Law research scholar Justin Campos, who is a member of the union, wrote to WSN. “This process is more drawn out and time-consuming when compared to voluntary recognition, but we believe that we owe it to our colleagues to fight for them.”

Once a case is filed with the NLRB — an independent government agency that protects certain labor rights — a local director begins an investigation to determine whether the agency should go forward with the petition. From there, the local office issues a notice for a hearing and the respondent, in this case NYU, must answer within 14 days. 

“The university has long appreciated the rights of its employees to seek union representation,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman wrote in a statement to WSN. “The university is committed to working hard to resolve these issues through meaningful, thoughtful discussions and proceedings.”

The university also said it cannot recognize NRU because some members of the union work under NYU Langone Health, the School of Law and the College of Dentistry — schools and centers which are not included in any of its current agreements with other on campus labor unions.

Ruby Steedle, a researcher working at NYU’s Cash Transfer Lab, said she thinks the university’s claim that researchers cannot unionize across schools or due to varying job titles shows “disregard for researchers as a group.”

“Almost 5,000 researchers work for NYU in various capacities, and while there’s a huge amount of diversity in our work, we all produce the research that NYU builds its reputation on,” Steedle wrote to WSN. “Our petition makes this clear, and in our NLRB hearings over the next few weeks we’ll provide our evidence and worker testimonies to prove this.”

NYU Contract Faculty United, the union representing hundreds of contract faculty at the university, has also continued to push for university recognition. Elisabeth Fay, a CAS professor and organizer with CFU-UAW, said the union has been working toward an election agreement — an agreement between a union and an employer where a union is elected to represent a group of employees in bargaining efforts, and requires an employer to then bargain with the union. Fay said the process has been “productive and educational.”

“NYU workers should have the right to come together and unionize,” Fay wrote to WSN. “I hope that NYU leadership is willing to reverse course, do the right thing, and meet with their workers.”

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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