Armbands, Arguments, Op-Eds, and Banner-Drops: Undergraduate Participation in a Graduate Employee Strike

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Andrew Cornell


In what follows, I examine as a case study the various responses of undergraduates at New York University to the six-month strike to retain union recognition waged by graduate student employees during the 2005-2006 school year.  After pointing to ways in which both pro- and anti-union students impacted the job action, I delineate the specific successes and challenges faced by an undergraduate solidarity group in order to pass along organizing lessons.  From this experience, I raise questions regarding the challenges of coalition work between unions and student activists, and outline a critique of the union’s strategy based on the undergraduate experience of the strike.  I offer these comments as a member of the Organizing Committee of the NYU graduate student union whose first experience with organized labor came through involvement in the University of Michigan USAS chapter as an undergraduate.  Owing to this background, I served as a liaison between undergraduate activists and the union before and during the strike.

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