In Anticipation Of Strike, Undergrads Rally To Support Graduate Student Workers

reading in lobby

On Friday afternoon, just hours after NYU Provost David McLaughlin sent a university-wide email condemning a potential graduate student strike, a group of approximately 25 undergraduates had congregated in the Bobst lobby. The group, organized by the Student & Labor Action Movement, had gathered to protest McLaughlin’s email and to deliver to him a letter of their own.

The letter, quickly written, listed some students’ greivances with McLaughlin’s anti-strike email, and amassed a handful of signatures from the students gathered in the lobby. The group delivered it to a guard outside Bobst’s 12th-floor administrative offices. But where this early undergraduate effort to support graduate student workers saw limited turnout, momentum is quickly building among undergraduates in support of a graduate student strike. As of Monday morning, over 400 students had signed a new letter in solidarity with graduate students, while hundreds others had pledged to attend the bargaining session and other events in support of the graduate student union.

“We know that graduate student working conditions are undergraduate learning conditions,” reads a new letter from undergraduates to NYU President John Sexton. “We therefore urge the administration to provide graduate student workers with fair annual wage increases, 100% healthcare for all GSOC members, family health care and child care benefits, working PhD tuition remission, and a shorter-term contract length.”

Currently boasting over 400 signatures, the letter is expected to grow in support throughout the day. “We anticipate reaching about 500 signatures by the start of bargaining,” SLAM member Jonah Walters told Local.

The bargaining session, scheduled to begin at 8pm tonight, will determine whether NYU’s graduate student union will go on strike this week. The graduate student GSOC-UAW will meet with NYU officials to negotiate pay and benefits for graduate student workers. If the meeting is unsuccessful, the union plans to go on strike from March 10–13.

While the bargaining session will not be open to the public, a number of undergraduates plan to gather nearby to support the union. During the negotiations, which are anticipated to run late into Monday night or early Tuesday morning, supporters plan to congregate in the hallways of 105 East 17th Street, were the meeting will be held. A Facebook page for the planned gathering encourages attendees to bring work and a potluck dish to share.

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Another group of students plans to hand out flyers supporting the graduate student union in Bobst this afternoon. “We reject NYU’s efforts to pit undergraduates against graduate student workers, against many of our teachers and friends,” read the flyers which students plan to distribute at 3pm today.

Other students have planned events for Tuesday, the day after negotiations. A planned Tuesday rally in Bobst will either celebrate the union’s new contract or establish a picket line in protest. “Either we will be discussing the terms of our tentative contract, or starting our first rally on the picket line if NYU does not fulfill our demands,” the event’s Facebook page reads. Over 200 students have RSVPed.

The bargaining committee’s decision is expected to be released online Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Follow NYU Local’s graduate student strike coverage here.

Photo courtesy of Anne Falcon.