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New York Times

“They are trying to bully us”: New York University graduates are back on strike

New York — When Marwan Shalaby moved from Egypt to New York in 2019 and received a doctorate in engineering from New York University, he had $ 700 in his bank account. He thought it would be enough to settle down. However, Sharabies had to pay a deposit for the apartment, mattress and winter clothes. After going to the emergency room for a cooking injury, he started to borrow money. When he was worried about paying his first graduate student scholarship, it would total $ 2,500 a month, Shalaby said those checks would barely cover the cost of living in his new city. I noticed. The time and energy he wanted to spend studying for class was instead spent worrying about his bank account. Sign up for The New York Times The Morning Newsletter. “My learning experience wasn’t optimal because my mind was obsessed with paying for essentials,” he said. This week, 28-year-old Shalaby joins more than 1,000 NYU graduate students striking for higher wages from college, among other demands for better health care and changing school-police relationships. It was. During the strike, graduate students are refraining from duties such as assistants and grade evaluation, and the campus is stuck as the university and union continue to negotiate new contract terms for students. More than seven years ago, New York University graduate students were the first in the country to obtain voluntary union approval from a private university. The resulting contract expired in August, and graduate students, represented by the United Auto Workers, have spent months in fierce negotiations on the terms of the renewal. At the heart of the conflict between unions and universities is the demand for higher wages for graduate students, among the most expensive in the country. The union’s organizing committee initially proposed an hourly wage of $ 46. That’s more than double the current hourly wage for graduate students starting at $ 20. Since then, the Organizing Committee has dropped the proposal to $ 32 per hour. The university opposes the proposed increase of about 22% in six years, which is equivalent to a $ 1 increase in the first year of the contract. NYU leaders claim that graduate students earn more than students in other schools. For example, Harvard graduate students recently signed a contract granting $ 17 an hour, they said. “This strike didn’t have to happen,” New York University spokesman John Beckman said in an email. “The university has made a generous proposal for this contract renewal,” the university president sent an email to parents of New York University students this week, stating the strike as “unjustice, premature, and disappointing.” The email caused backlash and jokes on social media from some of the graduate students over the age of 30 who received it from their parents. New York University graduate student organizers said New York University graduate student organizers were inadequate to compare to Harvard contracts due to the high cost of living. New York. The NYU organizer used the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator to determine the proposed wages, taking into account the constraint that graduate students can only work 20 hours a week. Columbia University and Harvard graduate students have recently made a strike to sign the first union contract, while New York University graduate students signed the first contract in 2015 and are negotiating a second contract. Therefore, we are making more ambitious demands. (The Colombian strike, which began in March, was suspended while students voted for the contract, which will raise the hourly wages of student workers to $ 20 within three years.), Hunter Executive Director of the National Center for Group Negotiation Studies in College Higher Education and Occupations. “In the second contract, the unions are trying to expand and expand their profits. It is very common for the second contract to be more stringent.” Employment freezes put pressure on the academic employment market. As a result, the pandemic and economic crisis have increased the urgency of the union’s financial demand. “They are bullying us and trying to lower wage proposals,” said Ellis Garey, a fourth-year PhD candidate and union organizer of New York University’s history and Middle East studies. (28) stated. “Finally, thousands of graduate students have joined the picket line.” A crowd gathered near New York University on Friday called on several city council candidates and Bernie Sanders to congratulate the striker. I heard from a senator. “If we respect education in this country, if we know how important it is to provide young people with the best education in the world,” he said. Respect and dignity. Unioning and collective bargaining among graduate students dates back decades in the public sector, which signed the first higher education contract at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970. However, in private schools, the question of whether graduate students should be treated as students or workers is more controversial. And NYU has long been the battlefield of this issue. The National Labor Relations Board first recognized graduate students’ right to collective bargaining at private universities in 2000 in a case that began at New York University. However, the board, of which five members were appointed by the president, had a conservative majority under President George W. Bush. In a 2004 proceeding at Brown University, the board overturned the ruling and left the private graduate student union vulnerable to the federal government. The board has been upset about the issue since the White House changed hands. Republicans maintain a majority at least until the end of summer, but the board will withdraw a draft rule on the issue from the Trump era in March, reaffirming the path for private school graduate students to unite. Stated. According to a survey by the Hunter Center, the total number of student union members nationwide has increased significantly from about 64,680 in 2013 to over 83,000 in 2019. The question of whether graduate students should be classified as students or employees is more urgent than ever, as the federal government is considering how to classify gig workers and the workplace protection they are given. Said Herbert. Many private university leaders have traditionally believed that the main duty of graduate students is not in their labor but in their research. However, impressive graduate students at New York University argue that there is no distinction between their work and schoolwork, and that the university cannot function without their paid work. “When I’m doing research, it benefits the university,” Gary said. “I attend meetings, hold workshops within the department, publish articles, and publish translations. All of this is done by faculty as part of the rewards.” New York University graduate student Rewards aren’t the only thing that drives the wedge between the organizers and the university. Graduate students also urged the university to refrain from calling the New York Police Department unless legally required or a violent crime was committed. They do not want police to be called in case of vandalism, for example because of the risk to people of color or other vulnerable students. Graduate students also made pandemic-specific demands, such as requiring the teaching assistant to pay $ 500 for the effort spent on the transition to distance learning. Virgilio Urbina Lazardi, a 28-year-old fourth-year doctoral student in sociology, planned to polish her treatise for submission to an academic journal last spring. He had to shelve the project so that he could double the amount of time he spent on assistant teaching. The professor he assisted had a hard time zooming, so Lazardi promised to visit the professor’s house and set up his skills. “There was a lot of additional stress during the semester, which fell disproportionately to me without additional compensation or awareness,” Lazardi said. This week, all obligations to pay graduate students (class planning, emailing students, hosting business hours) have ceased. Some union organizers are approaching this moment as an opportunity to teach undergraduate students about the broader struggle for student and worker rights. 33-year-old Arundhati Velamur, who holds a PhD in Education, spent the semester leading a course on geometry education. She started her first class with a discussion about the book “Flatland,” a satire of the 1800s about Victorian social stratification. This satire imagines a fictional world in which shapes exist, the power of which is determined by the number of sides. For example, a hexagon is stronger than a square. Bellamar went back to the text and explained why he skipped the class due to a strike. In a hierarchy like New York University’s “Flatland,” Bellamar and her associates were fighting for more power. She emailed her students that she couldn’t teach them until they reached an agreement and smiled when they received their reply. Her undergraduates were spending time in class to brainstorm how to support the union. This article was originally published in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company