February 27, 2015
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—Just like the graduate students of New York University did in 1998, grad students at The New School want the administration to recognize them as a union in order to achieve a collective bargaining agreement.
In the accompanying video, we interviewed Oliver Picek, a third-year graduate student at The New School, to find out where he and his colleagues stand with the administration.
They represent a trend that was started by the NYU students in 1998, who reached their first contract with NYU as members of the United Automobile Workers Local 2110 in 2002, making them the first recognized union of graduate students at a private university. But now they’re in the thick of a new struggle to win a new contract as they just issued a strike notice for March 9 because they claim that NYU is dragging its feet.
“We’re also trying to get UAW recognition from The New School so that we can enter into negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement in order to achieve better working conditions with a pay raise and free health care—that’s what succeeded at NYU and we’re going try to do that here at The New School,” said Picek.
While they were standing with adjuncts on Wednesday in recognition of the National Adjunct Walkout Day on 13th Street and Fifth Avenue, they were handing out peanuts to passerby to highlight what they say are poor working conditions. We asked Picek about how our video audience might be questioning how bad they are to warrant a union for graduate students who aren’t working on the factory floor, a retail store or on a construction site. But he said they’re bad all right.
“They’re definitely that bad, because unlike other bigger universities we don’t get any stipends. We have to earn everything through teaching, research assistantships or other forms of work. New York is super-expensive. We need that money and we believe the university has the money,” said Picek.
Picek noted that so far the administration hasn’t said no to the grad students’ demands.
“Over 70 percent of the TAs here are in favor of the union and we would like the university to respect that and enter into bargaining. This event is about putting additional pressure on the administration to do the right thing.”