The spice of any picket line is live music. Local 802 member Bill Ware and Groove Collective lent some energy to striking teaching and research assistants at Columbia on April 20.
“We’re on strike to win the basic right to organize and bargain for a fair contract for the valuable work we provide to Columbia University,” said Dehlia Hannah, a teaching assistant in Columbia’s Philosophy Department and a member of Graduate Student Employees United (GSEU) an affiliate of UAW Local 2110.
“I need a union because I cannot afford health care for my family,” said Etay Ziv, a research assistant in Columbia’s Biomedical Engineering Department. “The cost of health care and housing take up 80 percent of my salary.”
“My wife and I are expecting a baby this summer and we’re scared,” added Ziv. “We will be making decisions between health care, housing, and food for ourselves and our baby.”
TA’s and RA’s at Columbia filed for a union election in 2000. But in 2004, the NLRB reversed itself after President Bush changed the composition of the board. The board ruled that graduate student employees at private schools may not unionize.
As a gesture of solidarity, Local 802 hired some of its members to play at the rally. As is the union’s standard practice – and to set a good example – the musicians were paid under a union contract with health and pension.
Performing were Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), Richard Hammond (bass), Barney Mcall (keyboard), Jay Rodriguez (flute and tenor sax), Genji Siraisi (drums), Sue Terry (sax), Chris Theberge (percussion) and Bill Ware (vibes and bandleader).
Two of the musicians listed above – Ware and Fowlkes – are part of a group of Knitting Factory recording artists who recently won a settlement from their label with 802’s help.
For the latest info, see www.2110uaw.org/gseu.