October 23, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—New York University recently won a favorable court decision to rebuild its Washington Square campus for $6 billion, but it doesn’t want to pay its graduate employees over at the Polytechnic campus in Brooklyn a living wage.
So the graduate students/employees held a press conference at 1 Centre Street on Wednesday afternoon where they got support from elected officials including Public Advocate Letitia James, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and Councilman Stephen Levin.
According to the graduates, who are only making $10 or $11 an hour, NYU is able to secure more than $20 million annually in grants and contracts thanks to their cutting-edge research. Not to mention that private sector start-ups start up because the graduates do all the research legwork.
In the accompanying video interview, Assemblywoman Glick, who represents the Washington Square neighborhood that NYU wants to drastically upend, said NYU should be paying its graduates at Poly-Tech higher wages.
“I’ve stood with the graduate and research assistants for many years. NYU has been a union buster for a long time; they took a long time to come around to a contract and now these students are working at NYU-Poly in Brooklyn and they’re making a third as much as the graduate students at Washington Square. That’s not right; $10 an hour is outrageous. NYU is an enormously wealthy institution,” said Glick.
She also noted that while NYU can’t pay the students, the president is doing great.
“We are concerned that the students who go there as undergraduates are drowning in doubt while the institution provides low-interest loans to administrators for vacation homes in the Hamptons and a severance package for the president, John Sexton, that’ll be essentially a $800,000- a-year pension. They should be ashamed of themselves.”
Gisselle Cunningham makes about $10 an hour at Poly-Tech teaching engineering to her peers. She didn’t expect to make only $10 an hour in engineering.
“I think it’s the expectation of the university for you to accept $10 an hour,” said Cunningham.
Right after the presser the bargaining committee was expected to meet with NYU to try to reach agreement on a contract. Cunningham said she’s anxious to hear NYU’s proposals.
“It would be nice to hear from them. I hope they get the message to cooperate with the union so that we can get a fair contract.”
Julie Kushner is the director of the United Automobile Workers, Region 9A, the union that organized graduate students at the Washington Square campus for over a decade and is organizing the graduate students at Poly-Tech. She said that NYU has to pay them a living wage.
“It’s really critical that NYU begin to address the low wages at Poly-Tech. The [graduates] are doing high-level work in these laboratories and in the engineering school. We hope to hear from the university that they’re ready to recognize these workers with a living wage. NYU needs to step up to the plate; they have the resources to really transform the lives of these workers,” said Kushner.