Category Archives: Education

Grad Employees Re-Unionize at NY—First in the Country

NYU grad studentsby Matt Canfield, LaborNotes.orgread original

Victory cries rang out across campus the night of December 11. Tears of joy were shed.

The American Arbitration Association had just announced that New York University graduate employees had voted 98.4 percent in favor of union representation—after eight years of struggle for recognition.

This makes NYU once again the only private university with unionized graduate employees.

The Graduate Student Organizing Committee/Science and Engineers Together (GSOC-UAW)—which brings together two organizing drives across NYU’s campuses—is affiliated with the United Auto Workers and includes more than 1,200 graduate employees.

“We hope this inspires graduate employees at all universities to organize for their rights,” said Brady Fletcher, a PhD student in Cinema Studies.

GSOC and UAW made history in 2000 when they won a precedent-setting case that recognized graduate students as employees under national labor law. The decision set off a wave of organizing at private universities.

But administrators quickly allied against graduate employee unions—and Brown University, with support from several major private universities, won an appeal that overturned NYU’s case in 2005, under the Bush National Labor Relations Board.

In its decision, the NLRB reasoned that the labor performed by graduate assistants was part of an educational process, over which faculty and administrators should maintain control. The principle of equality of bargaining power, the Board ruled, was ill-suited to the realm of higher education.

With employers no longer legally obligated to recognize graduate employee unions, unionization attempts at many schools were quickly busted. Organizing committees disbanded. Ballots from a union vote at Columbia University were impounded. And NYU—which had settled a first contract with its graduate employees in 2001—refused to bargain another contract.

In fall 2005, NYU graduate workers decided—by an 85 percent majority—to strike to demand recognition. Determined to break the union, the administration threatened international students, spied on faculty emails, and refused to rehire anyone who didn’t leave the picket line.

The strike was called off in May 2006, but graduate employees continued to organize and demand recognition.

A Wake-Up Call

For the last eight years, graduate employees at NYU have been living with the consequences of not having a union. Fletcher says employees lost a voice just as health care costs increased sharply, new fees were imposed, and tuition remission was withdrawn for some.

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Harvard Library Workers Resist Top-Down Restructuring and Austerity

Staff rallied in Harvard Yard

The world’s wealthiest university is squeezing workers with a new “shared services” model. Staff rallied in Harvard Yard in November. Photo: HUCTW.

by James Cersonsky, February 12, 2013, Labor Notes

The world’s wealthiest university is squeezing workers with a new “shared services” model. Staff rallied in Harvard Yard in November. Photo: HUCTW.

With an endowment of $32 billion, Harvard is the wealthiest university in the world. Upon rebounding from the recession, the university is remodeling all its dorms, expanding its online course program, and constructing a new science center. Its library workers, meanwhile, have gotten the short end of the stick.

Workers beat back threatened mass layoffs last spring, but are now enduring the consolidation of their work in a new “shared services” model that translates into bigger workloads and fragmented work relationships. Now, along with the rest of Harvard’s clerical and technical employees, library workers are mobilizing for a fair—and long-overdue—contract.

Evolving Expectations

With more than 55 miles of bookshelves, Harvard boasts the largest academic library system in the world. Its range of archives and specialized resources are a major draw for scholars and the backbone of the university’s academic culture.

Nonetheless, university leaders concluded last spring that the Library was lagging behind the “evolving expectations of the 21st century scholar.” Their restructuring initiative, launched with hype more typical of a social media IPO than of a library, has been a blow to workers and patrons alike.  Continue reading

Detroit’s Wayne State U. Looks to Destroy Tenure

AAUP pickets Wayne Stateby Aaron Petkov, Labor Notes, August 15, 2012

Wayne State University in Detroit has proposed a new contract that would radically redefine the terms for eliminating faculty. The school would be the first research university to effectively abolish tenure, said the faculty union, which mounted a protest.

Wayne State University in Detroit has proposed a new contract that would radically redefine the terms for eliminating faculty.  Continue reading

College Leaders and Labor Organizers Spar Over Possible Graduate Student Unionization

July 24, 2012, By Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Ed

Briefs filed with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday differed sharply in their view of a potential board decision to allow the unionization of private colleges’ graduate-student employees in two cases involving New York University. While union advocates said such a move would simply recognize the reality of how private colleges depend on graduate-student workers, private colleges and their supporters warned the board that it appeared poised to change graduate education in ways that would curtail academic freedom and sabotage relations between students and their instructors. Continue reading

Effects of SB7 collective bargaining provisions being felt in CTU vs. CPS negotiations

Effects of SB7 collective bargaining provisions being felt in CTU vs. CPS negotiations

When Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) President Karen Lewis announced Wednesday that the CTU was rejecting the arbitrator’s suggestions in the fact-finding report, she said it was because important grievances like class sizes and the longer school day were not even brought to the bargaining table.

That’s because two education reform bills, one passed in 1995 and the other passed last year, narrowed the range of issues that can be discussed during collective bargaining. Continue reading

Saying It’s Not about the Money, Chicago Teachers Inch Closer to Strike

CTU rallyby Theresa Moran, July 18, 2012,  Labor Notes

The Chicago Teachers Union stepped closer to a strike as it voted today to reject an arbitrator’s recommendations in the contract dispute with “Mayor 1%” Rahm Emanuel.

Though the arbitrator’s economic proposals are far more favorable than the city’s, CTU leaders say they advised delegates to reject the report. The union’s House of Delegates voted it down unanimously.

Kristine Mayle, CTU financial secretary, says she opposes the report because it fails to take into account the full scope of the union’s concerns. “It doesn’t address the education issues that we’re concerned about,” she said. Continue reading

Labor-Relations Board Seeks Input on Faculty Unions at Private Colleges

By Sara Hebel, Chronicle of Higher Education

The National Labor Relations Board is soliciting legal briefs on the question of whether or not faculty members at private colleges should be considered managers, a distinction that determines whether they are eligible for union representation. Continue reading

Academic Labor Conference Produces Sharply Different Visions of Colleges’ Financial Future

By Peter Schmidt, Chronicle of Higher Education

The administrators and faculty representatives who gathered here Monday for an annual national conference of academic labor disagreed sharply on the question of whether they should fight or seek to adapt to trends that have put colleges and their employees under financial pressure.

Some college administrators and experts at the joint labor-management conference argued that calls for colleges to do more with steadily less represent the “new normal” in higher education, and the unions representing faculty members and other college employees would be well-advised to focus their attention on finding ways to cope with changes such declining support for public colleges from tax dollars. Continue reading

‘In the Same Boat’: Labor-Conference Speakers Call for Unity in Bid to Shape Higher-Education Policy

By Audrey Williams June, Chronicle of Higher Education

At an annual labor conference here, one message was clear: Faculty members, union leaders, and administrators share a common plight more than ever these days and need to work together to help shape public policy and public perception about higher education—or get prepared to deal with the consequences. Continue reading

On the Chopping Block

From the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Labor & Work Life Issues” section

posted June 25, 2010, 03:21 PM ET

• Employee Unions File Complaints Over Pay Freeze at Rutgers U. (read original)

Employee unions at Rutgers University have banded together to file charges against the public institution for its decision to freeze employee pay to save money. The charges, filed with the New Jersey Public Employees Relations Commission, stem from the university’s announcement this month that it would not give employees scheduled pay raises. Faculty members were scheduled to get a 2.75-percent raise on July 1. A hearing before the commission on the issue is slated for July 7.

June 19, 2010, 09:45 AM ET

• Arkansas Official Suspends Pay Raises at State’s Public Colleges (Read Original)

Faculty members and other nonclassified employees at public colleges across Arkansas will not receive pay raises they were expecting to get during the 2011 fiscal year after the director of the state’s Department of Finance and Administration announced on Thursday that such raises would be suspended for state agencies, including colleges and universities. The state official, Richard Weiss, invoked a provision of Arkansas law that allows him to take such action based on revenue forecasts for the fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The situation was described in a news release issued by Arkansas State University at Jonesboro and in an article published in the Log Cabin Democrat.

posted December 4, 2009

• ‘Significant Downsizing’ Is Likely for Iowa State U., Its President Warns (read original)

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What Happens When Entire Departments Get the Axe

By Robin Wilson, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 18, 2009 –read original post

The Jones Theatre at Washington State University is getting a $500,000 face-lift this summer. A construction crew has already ripped out its 500 orange and blue seats and is replacing them with new ones covered in a wine-colored fabric. The theater’s walls are being painted a light beige, and a new set of black velour curtains will grace the stage.But some professors are worried that the theater will remain dark. That’s because the department of theater and dance is one of three academic programs slated for elimination because of budget cuts at Washington State. Officials say they must slash a total of $54-million from the university’s budget over the next two years. The 11 tenured and tenure-track professors who work in the three programs are also on the chopping block. Continue reading

Restructuring -or How to Fire Staff

Faculty Members and Union Protest Staff Layoffs at Temple U. as ‘Cruel’

by Erica Hendry, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 2, 2009 – Read original post

Union leaders, department heads, and faculty members at Temple University are calling the way the administration handled the firing of several staff members on Wednesday “simply cruel.”

The university announced on Monday of last week that it was moving forward with plans to restructure its administrative staff, as part of efforts to save money. According to several faculty members, all positions as they existed were terminated, and the affected staff members had the opportunity to apply for a number of newly created jobs. Continue reading