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As final exams approach and colleges rely more heavily on teaching assistants, some are using the extra leverage to their advantage. Graduate students and adjunct professors around the city are coordinating job actions to convince university administrators to recognize their unions and negotiate contracts. Grad students at Columbia University are on strike for the second time in two years for recognition of their union, Graduate Student Employees United (GSEU). They first voted to unionize in 2002, but the school intervened and their ballots were impounded. However, graduate students maintained a majority union support and held numerous actions. In July 2004 the Republican-controlled National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reversed an earlier decision and ruled that graduate student assistants were not employees so university administrators were not obligated to recognize their collective bargaining rights. Downtown at New York University, teaching assistants are demanding a contract renewal and new grievance procedure. At a rally outside Bobst Library on April 21, Rev. Jesse Jackson took a bullhorn and rallied the crowd: “Columbia and Yale must go forward,” he shouted, while the crowd responded, “NYU must not go backward.” (Graduate students at Yale are striking for union recognition as well.) Meanwhile, New School adjunct professors are considering a strike and union members from the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY have been engaged in a two-year fight for a contract renewal and to organize non-union CUNY employees. All of these efforts are part of a broader movement throughout the Northeast. “We are a vulnerable sector of workers,” said Dehlia Hannah a teacher’s assistant in Philosophy at Columbia University. “What we want is not just standard solutions to local problems but respect and recognition for the work we do.” (B. Baumer)

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