As a founding member of the Graduate Student Organizing Committee-UAW at New York University in the mid-1990’s, I was very proud to be part of a national movement that sought to ensure adequate working conditions for teaching and research assistants. As a graduate student, faculty member and administrator over the last 20 years, I have watched our graduate student body grow much more accomplished, with most graduate programs at NYU being far more competitive than prior to unionization, due in no small part to the positive improvements negotiated through collective bargaining.
After years of organizing and two contracts, NYU teaching and graduate assistants are now among the highest-paid RAs and TAs in the US, and also receive tuition remission, comprehensive medical and dental insurance, and childcare support, among other benefits. When they believe they have been wronged in the workplace, they can access a formal and impartial grievance process. Over the years, the improvements at NYU have also helped raise standards across New York City and nationally.
Not only has unionization helped enhance life for graduate students and the competitiveness of our graduate programs, it has had no negative effect on academic relationships at the University–if anything, these relationships have grown stronger.
I applaud and encourage your efforts to build your own union at Columbia–do it for yourself, do it for your fellow graduate students, and do it for your university!
Patrick McCreery, PhD
Associate Dean of Students
Clinical Assistant Professor
NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study