Today, there will be an election for the summer staff positions in our union at 4:30 p.m. in the Judson Memorial Church. This election was supposed to take place in March since the contract requires that names be sent to the university by April 1, but it is being held now for reasons that are mysterious to me. The fact that we still have not sent the names to the university that were due the better part of two months ago is itself evidence of a certain level of neglect on the part of NYU AWDU leadership concerning basic priorities in collective bargaining during at least the past semester.
The GSOC Bylaws apparently state that all members, not only stewards, may come to the meeting where the Unit Representative election is taking place and vote. The fact that members may come and vote was announced to the membership. However, because there was no nomination deadline (other than the requirement that candidates announce themselves to the relatively new “gsocactivist” listserv sometime before the meeting itself), the announcement about the election at the meeting today did not contain the names of any candidates, and it was not even clear that the election would be contested. I participated in this dynamic by also myself waiting to see who if anyone my opponents would be before announcing my own candidacy, which I am doing today only hours before the meeting itself. Nevertheless, I find this process kind of strange and am not sure what exactly its outcome could be said to represent since members (other than those to whom candidates have directly reached out) will not have been able to decide beforehand whether or not to go to the meeting on the basis of who the candidates are or even whether the election is contested at all.
Under the GSOC bylaws, only stewards are allowed to run for the Unit Representative positions. I do not necessarily agree with this provision of the GSOC unit bylaws or accept that it is binding on the Local, but as a steward I am eligible to run. According to a recent e-mail, some have taken the position that recently elected stewards are also eligible to run. Of course, there is disagreement between the Local and the NYU AWDU caucus about who exactly those are. In any case, I do not accept that newly elected stewards should be eligible to run in a contested election under the GSOC unit bylaws for the simple reason that, had these elections occurred in March when they were supposed to according to our own bylaws, individuals not elected until this April would not have been eligible to run. It seems to me that the spirit of bylaws that state that a staff position is only open to current stewards is to require that individuals have spent some non-negligible amount of time as a steward before serving in the staff position. I have done this, and regardless of whether I personally agree that it should be a requirement, given that it is I do not think it would be fair to me if stewards who were just elected were allowed to run against me in a contested election for which they would not have been eligible had it occurred when it was supposed to. Of course, if there are not enough stewards who were not just elected who want to do it, we should open it more broadly, but such stewards including me should have priority. This issue will also apparently not be decided until the meeting itself where the election will take place.
Despite all these procedural issues, I am participating in this process both because I would like to serve in a staff position and because the meeting itself is an opportunity to demonstrate that I have some degree of support from other graduate students at NYU. In the event of a contested election, I am asking that anyone who wants me to be a Unit Representative vote for me and only me. If everyone who votes for me also votes for other candidates, I will lose.
I think I am well-qualified to serve in one of the staff positions because I have the most experience with GSOC of anyone who might run. I will be the only candidate whose experience spans the pre-contract, contract, and post-contract phases of GSOC. I am very proud of the countless hours of my life I have devoted to this union and to the national movement to organize adjuncts, postdocs, and graduate student workers.
Nevertheless, such claims are difficult to substantiate, whereas the aspect of my union work that has recently been most apparent is this blog. Although under ideal circumstances writing such a blog would have been far less important than organizing, and although I do have a strong record as an organizer, I wanted in the remainder of this post to argue that my blog has also played an important and positive role in our union’s democracy and that I am therefore a valuable and at this point necessary voice of dissent who should serve in one of the three staff positions.
My blog began by publicly pressuring the NYU AWDU majority caucus of the Bargaining Committee not to accept a contract that did not include stipends. This came after numerous meetings in which a “consensus” emerged that leaving stipends out might be all right if we couldn’t win high enough raises because at least then we wouldn’t be paying dues on them. Leaving stipends out of the contract would have set a terrible precedent for graduate worker unions at other universities, and it did not happen in part because of this blog.
On this blog I vociferously argued to create districts for the steward positions in order to incentivize caucuses to build leadership across the unit and not just in certain departments. The NYU AWDU leadership accepted a compromise from its most extreme position that there should be no such districts, and now there are. I believe that the existence of districts for stewards has to some extent succeeded in incentivizing caucuses to cultivate leadership outside of core departments in the humanities and social sciences and that this would not have happened without this blog.
Finally, my blog was central to refuting in a timely and conclusive manner the false and outrageous accusations of Zionist conspiracy against a number of my colleagues and the Local 2110 leadership. These claims were deeply destructive of our union and would have been even more so had they been allowed to grow in an environment where a more accurate picture wasn’t being presented.
Writing this blog has sometimes felt like the dirty job someone had to do. It was never what I wanted or expected from life, and it has been immensely difficult personally, but I look back on its successes so far with great pride. I ask you to vote for me not despite but in part because of my work here on gsoccommentary.