Late last week, the UAW and NYU reached an agreement. GSOC will withdraw its two petitions before the national labor relations board for TAs and RAs at NYU and NYUpoly, respectively. The challenge to the Bush administration's legalized excision of contingent graduate student academic workers from collective bargaining and federal labor-management regimes will have to wait indefinitely. In return, the university administration has agreed to an election in less that two weeks for a bargaining unit which includes teaching assistants at both NYU and NYUpoly, a larger unit than the one the strike failed to preserve, and administrators have also importantly agreed to remain neutral and begin bargaining quickly in the event that the union indeed wins the election.
I first heard about all of this in the middle of my panel at ASA, although I did not learn details immediately. The full announcement, inlcuding one statement by President Sexton and Bob Berne and another joint statement by UAW officials and university administrators came early this week. From those of us no longer actively organizing, which now means everyone who was around for the strike, and most of us who organized during the almost eight years since its end, there have been a range of emotions articulated in several different forms and venues, and reaction among others in the academic labor movement seems similarly unsettled, as folks try to make sense of whether this is some kind of sellout, or a worthy conclusion to a very long and very difficult struggle, pending, of course, an actual election victory and then all of the things that follow it, or neither, or both. At the moment, and don't hold me to this, what we know about the agreement makes it look pretty good. Though it will not change federal labor law, a victory at NYU after 8 years of administrative retrenchment and against one of the most aggressively expansionist, authoritarian, anti-union and anti-faculty administrations around, would likely spur rather than set back ongoing and future organizing at Yale, University of Chicago, and other private universities, though I am interested to hear from folks organizing there and elsewhere about how they interpret what this means and how it changes the strategy moving forward. I do think that there is an argument to be made (and unions have been making it for well over a decade) for circumventing the ponderous and anti-worker NLRB process in any way possible. However, GSOC will either need an eventual NLRB decision or a remarkably high level of organization - something we have struggled with in the past - to prevent a repeat of 2005, meaning another withdrawal of voluntary recognition, absent compulsory legal recognition under the National Labor Relations Act.
Meanwhile, eight years to the day after the SCRC/GUS occupation of the tenth floor of Bobst library, eight years of organizing and waiting, dropped balls and slammed doors and clandestine organizing meetings at the four faced liar, on the second floor of dunkin donuts, at that shitty expensive bar on university place after the picket line, in the sociology department, at Liz's apartment, in SCA, in the old union office, and in the new union office the single GSOC Venceremos sticker which inexplicably remained fixed to a mirror in the West Wing bathroom on the tenth floor of Bobst, eight years of work-ins and the ghosts of the strike, eight years of phonebanking and wandering through unfamiliar departments and laboratories, eight years of picketing, incompletes, concern trolling from faculty and hostility from so-called colleagues, eight years of missed paychecks and slashed healthcare and the whole archive of messy fucked up shit I won't go into here, it feels so strange to no longer be a part of the bargaining unit, to be on my way back to ALbany, frantically trying to find a job and finish my dissertation when I feel like I should instead be doing turnout or throwing police barriers through bobst's picture windows and declaring the reestablishment of the NYU commune or something.)
N.B.: I started writing this post on 11/26, but finished it on 11/30 and will correct the date in a few hours. Also, for more information about the deal and what GSOC is up to, keep checking http://makingabetternyu.org