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Hundreds of graduate students at Yale and Columbia kicked off a five-day teaching strike Monday, a coordinated movement that organizers hope will force Ivy League administrators to recognize them as a union. It is the first ever multi-campus strike for Ivy League graduate student teachers, who face an uphill battle to win recognition. The National Labor Relations Board ruled last year that they are students, not workers, and cannot form unions. To win union recognition, universities would have to voluntarily grant it — something they have refused to do. The graduate students have pledged not to teach classes, grade papers or host review sessions this week. Their demands include health care for family members and a grievance process that would allow student teachers to raise concerns with the universities. Yale and Columbia administrators say the strikes should have minimal effect on classes. The number of strikers was not immediately available because graduate students teach classes at different times throughout the day. Union organizers have found Ivy League campuses the ideal backdrop for a national drive to bring graduate students under the union umbrella. But Monday’s strike represented a new tactic: Rather than fighting individual administrators, which has proven unsuccessful, unions hope coordinated efforts will force a sea change in the Ivy League. “We’re in a fight against the Bush administration, who refuse to recognize graduate students as teachers,” Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, a Yale graduate, said at a morning rally with about 250 pickets and supporters. Bysiewicz certified last year that the pro-union group at Yale represented about 500 graduate student teachers. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer made a similar certification for the group at Columbia, which claims about 1,000 members. Both moves were strictly symbolic. At Columbia, graduate students were scheduled to take buses to City Hall, where several union members said they planned to testify about unions in higher education. “Quite a few classes have been either canceled or moved off campus,” said Dehlia Hannah, a philosophy graduate student at Columbia. Yale organizers did not ask that classes be moved off campus. Pro-union groups say universities are increasingly relying on their services and should pay them accordingly. Administrators say teaching, research and grading are part of the educational experience. While the arrangements vary by university and department, graduate students typically receive free tuition and a stipend. Many receive full health benefits. Columbia pays its graduate student teachers about $18,000 a year. Yale pays between $17,000 and $25,000, with the minimum stipend set to go up to $18,000 in the fall. Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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