Obama chief of staff Jacob Lew, who multiple media reports say will shortly be named Secretary of the Treasury, led New York University’s campaign to break its graduate student employees’ union eight years ago.
Lew was hired as NYU’s chief operating officer and executive vice president in 2004. Shortly thereafter the National Labor Relations Board, newly stocked with Bush appointees, reversed a Clinton-era ruling that graduate student employees were entitled to collective bargaining rights under the National Labor Relations Act.
NYU’s graduate student union, GSOC, was recognized by the university in 2001, and nothing in the 2004 ruling prevented the university from continuing to do so. When the union’s contract expired the following year, however, NYU withdrew recognition and unilaterally imposed a new, dramatically more restrictive, “paradigm” of the GSOC’s role in graduate employee affairs.
The memo announcing that decision was co-signed by Jacob Lew, who the head of the GSOC’s local now describes as “the point person” in enacting the university’s new policy.
GSOC declared a strike that fall, which NYU met with threats, intimidation, and firings. The strike ended in failure in May of 2006, and Lew left NYU a month later — to become the chief operating officer of Citigroup Global Wealth Management.
A GSOC petition to overturn the National Labor Review Board decision denying them collective bargaining rights is currently pending before the NLRB, which now has a majority Obama-appointed membership.