Rally at Columbia / Strike

Topic(s): Announcement | No Comments

Date/Time: 20/04/2005 12:00 am

Dear Friends,
Sorry for the mass mailing, but I want to get the word out. This week,
Graduate Student Employees United (GSEU) at Columbia and the Graduate Employees and
Students Organization (GESO) at Yale are going on strike and will hold a major
rally at 116th Street and Broadway at Columbia this Wednesday from 4-6pm.
Whether as students, adjunct or full-time faculty, or art professionals subject
to similar anti-labor policies in museums, we need to show our support.
GESO and GSEU, along with GSOC at New York University, have been at the
forefront of struggles for fair benefits and compensation for teaching, research
and graduate assistants at private universities. GESO has been fighting for
recognition from Yale University since 1987. Affiliated with UAW, GSOC at NYU
became the first-ever union for graduate employees at a private university. They
won increases of at least 38% in stipends, full healthcare coverage and full
tuition coverage. In 2002, on the heels of the success of GSOC, adjunct faculty
at NYU also succeeded in organizing, forming Adjuncts Come Together (ACT-UAW).
They negotiated their first contract with NYU in the Spring of 2004. ACT-UAW
was also recognized by the New School University in the Fall of 2004.
The success of these organizing efforts is now at risk. In 2002 Columbia
University’s teaching and research assistants held a National Labor Relations
Board (NLRB) supervised union election. In response, Columbia announced that it
would appeal legal precedents granting graduate teachers the right to hold union
elections. In July 2004, the Bush-appointed Republican majority on the NLRB
overturned the historic decision that forced NYU to recognize GSOC. GSOC’s
contract expires in August.
Both Columbia’s GSEU and NYU’s GSOC are part of Local 2110 of the UAW. Local
2110 also represents the Professional and Administrative Staff Association
(PASTA) of the Museum of Modern Art and saw them through their six-month strike
in 2000. PASTA’s 2000 contract will expire in May.
There are direct parallels between trends in private non-profit universities
and in museums. Both have been undergoing an unprecedented corporatization.
Both have seen a meteoric rise in top-level compensation while increasing
pressure to keep lower-level wages down through a reliance on part-time and
temporary employment and anti-union policies. Curators and faculty alike are seeing a
decline in their authority and autonomy as artistic and academic values
become increasingly subsidiary to economic priorities. Museum audiences and
university students are increasingly positioned as customers of exhibition and
educational products, rather than constituents of a cultural and intellectual
community. At the same time, these “charitable” institutions are raising tuition and
admission fees (now $20 at MoMA), putting “higher” education and culture out
of reach of a growing portion of the population. In their drive to increase
revenue from tuition, many private universities are relying on the expansion of
cultural and art-related graduate programs in particular. Thus universities
are producing more and more MFAs and curatorial MAs–who graduate with growing
debts from ballooning tuition costs–even as the quality of the jobs available
to these graduates in universities and museums declines. The result is that
more and more graduates are forced into the for-profit world, further adding to
the ascendance of market values in cultural and intellectual fields.
Take a stand against the corporatization of our cultural and intellectual
worlds. Join the struggle against Republican labor policies. Attend the rally
Wednesday, April 20, 4-6pm, Broadway and 116th Street.
Download the attached flier and distribute.
All the best,
Andrea Fraser
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