Communications Workers of America Education Division Local 1104 Records, 1969-2001(bulk 1983-1999)
- Communications Workers of America. Local 1104 (Albany, N.Y.)
- The Education Division of Communication Workers of America, Local 1104 represents "employees eligible for union membership who are employed as: graduate students holding State-funded positions as Graduate Assistants or Teaching Assistants employed by the State University of New York." The collection includes news clippings, contracts, photographs, administrative records, as well as ephemera such as t-shirts, buttons, hats, and cup holders.
- 17.0 cubic ft.
- English and English
- Preferred citation:
- Preferred citation for this material is as follows: and Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Communications Workers of America Education Division Local 1104 Records, 1969-2001(bulk 1983-1999). M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as [shortened name]).
Access and Use
- Conditions Governing Access:
Access to this record group is unrestricted with the exception of the membership series. Researchers seeking access to Series #8 should contact the head of archives.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
- Scope and Content:
The collection arrived at the archives without a set order to the records, so the archivist imposed an arrangementon the records as they were processed. Many of the records reflect the activities of the GSEU statewide executive committee, which oversees the functions of the various branches of the union around New York State. Those records comprise a series of their own and mainly consist of administrative files such as correspondence, meeting minutes, activity planning, elections, and instructional information on how to organize. The executive committee held their meetings around the state, so material from them could appear on paper with letterheads from any of the center schools.
Each of the SUNY center schools makes up its own subseries under the heading of "Administrative Files. These subseries mirror some of the content from the statewide executive files, mainly correspondence and meeting minutes. There are also files dealing with day-to-day matters like mailing lists and local campus activities. The material from SUNY Buffalo by far outnumbers the material from Albany, Binghamton, and Stony Brook, which is likely because the GSEU movement was born in Buffalo. Therefore, the papers originating from that school are almost as numerous as those of the statewide executive committee.
This collection also contains papers documenting the founding of the GSEU: various financial materials (though not very many, considering that the bulk of the collection spans about seventeen years); publications from the SUNY campuses, especially from the unions themselves; and many subject files covering topics that were not deemed strictly administrative or applied to more than one location (and therefore were not filed under a specific school). Topics include issues with Univera Healthcare, protests of student fees, parking problems, and much more. There are also membership files concerning grievances on behalf of individuals, member applications, and bargaining surveys; these are restricted as there are confidentiality issues with each type of document.
There is also a selection of memorabilia that includes buttons, bumper stickers, t-shirts, posters, and photographs. Almostall of the photos came to the archives without labels or dates; therefore they are identified as clearly as a survey of the pictures would allow. The photos are bundled according to the way they arrived at the archives; the archivist placed any loose photos in clear protective sleeves.
Correspondence in each of the series is arranged according to the way the letters, e-mails, and memos were submitted to the archives: items that arrived in labeled folders were rehoused in acid-free folders and labeled similarly or exactly as the GSEU labeled them. The archivist placed items that arrived unfoldered in acid-free folders reading Correspondencegeneral due to time constraints on item-level processing.
Approximately three cubic feet of unfoldered material experienced water damage before coming to the archives; those papers are wrinkled and may have blurred words or staining from colored paper. Most of the items were still entirely or mainly legible. The archivist photocopied a few that sustained mold damage and disposed of the originals.
- Biographical / Historical:
Beginning in the 1970s, graduate, teaching, and research assistants in the various schools of the State University of New York (SUNY) decided it would be beneficial to form a union for graduate student employees. Though they were students, they were also employed as assistants in a variety of capacities at their respective SUNY schools and wanted the right to bargain with the state of New York for fair employment conditions.  The movement began at SUNY Buffalo in 1975 and showed great promise based on the number of signatures gathered from graduate assistants up until 1977.  However, the movement suffered a temporary setback over issues regarding New York States Taylor Law, which forbids public employees to strike in order to preserve harmonious and cooperative relationships between government and its employees; it is also intended to protect the best interests of the public by making sure that government operations function smoothly and without interruption.  The law specifically recognizes public employees right to organize, utilize grievance procedures, and obtain the aid of a relations board to help them resolve differences with employers provided the employees are part of a legally recognized union. SUNY Buffalos early attempts to unionize were unsuccessful because although the organizers signed affidavits that they would uphold the Taylor Law, they had been part of two strikes prior to that time. As a result, the SUNY Buffalo administration decided not to authorize the Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU).
Organizing attempts began again in earnest in the early 1980s. Statewide organization became a priority when the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) explained that such action was necessary for the GSEU to gain legal recognition.  Therefore, the largest of the SUNY campusesthe four university centers of Albany, Binghamton, Buffalo, and Stony Brookbecame the hubs of activity for union organizers. Initially, the students did not wish to be affiliated with larger unions like United University Professions, wary of giving up any independence.  However, after working to swell theirnumbers for several years, members eventually voted in 1984 to associate with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) since such an alliance would greatly strengthen the GSEUs bargaining power. 
Within months of coming under the wing of the CWA, the students decided to petition for a certification election that would allow graduate student employees to vote for or against unionization. After deliberating over the matter for two years, PERB decided in 1986 that the GSEU did not have the authority to vote on that issue.  PERBs reluctance to grant legal recognition to the GSEU was due in large part to their doubt about graduate students status as state employees; they viewed the organizers as students first and employees second, which meant that PERB questioned the organizers right to bargain in the first place. 
PERB ultimately decided to allow the graduate student employees to vote on unionization in 1991, but only for teaching and graduate assistants (TA and GA). Research assistants were not considered eligible as per PERBs existing rules, since they were (and still are) considered employees of the Research Foundation, not of SUNY. Believing that this was a step in the right direction, and that they could better advocate for the rights of research assistants if graduate and teaching assistants were legally recognized, the students went ahead and voted 6 to 1 to unionize. March 1994 brought the union its first contract after a year of negotiation, followed by two pay raises, creation of grievance procedures, and a health-care plan for student assistants, their spouses, and their dependents.  Rights such as grievance procedures did not come immediately, however, and the GSEU had to negotiate new contracts more than once before achieving some of the union benefits it wanted.
Completely student-run, the GSEU has a statewide executive committee that oversees union activity around New York. The elected officers take charge of procedures like policy planning and collective bargaining, but they are helped by elected officers of the steering committees at the SUNY schools, particularly the four university centers. Stewards on each campus are the eyes and ears of the steering committees and act as liaisons between the student body and steering committees. Members can be full or associate, depending on whether they are graduate/teaching assistants or not. The constitution, by-laws, and other policies of the GSEU are the products of the students themselves and have been amended as necessary over the years.
In the winter of 2001, the members of GSEU whose division had previously been recognized as Local 1188merged with CWA Local 1112 (Telephone Traffic Union Upstate Workers) and CWA Local 1104 (Telecommunications) in order to gain more bargaining power. All three entities would then be known as CWA Local 1104, with all the bargaining power that such a union entails, but without having to give up the administrative structures and authorities set forth by the groups original charters. Original Local 1104 members became known as the Telecommunications Division, Local 1112 members became known as the Operator Services Division, and the old 1188 members became the Education Division. The organization of each division remained the same for three years, after which the CWA Local 1104 Executive Board could vote to make changes if necessary.
As of spring 2010, the Graduate Student Employees Union was still active around the SUNY campuses, encouraging members to speak out on issues regarding TA and GA rights, and continuing to petition the governor and his colleagues on topics like tuition increases and fair wages. Research assistants, particularly at SUNY Stony Brook, have kept up their effortsto be recognized as official union members. In April 2010 the they brought their issues to New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and United States Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the hope of garnering support for a union contract, a victory they hope will be forthcoming.
For more information on unions within the Communications Workers of America, refer to the finding aid for CWA Local 1104,Operators Division, which chronicles the union history of the New York Telephone (later AT&T) telephone operators.
The information provided above was gleaned from the following sources:
- Acquisition information:
All items in this manuscript group were donated to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department Special Collections and Archives, by the Graduate Student Employees Union, CWA Local 1104.
- Processing information:
Processed in 2010 by Kerry Lynch.
Graduate teaching assistants
- Communications Workers of America--Education Division
Graduate Student Union(GSEU)
Communications Workers of America
State University of New York
State University of New York at Albany
State University of New York at Binghamton
State University of New York at Buffalo
State University of New York at Stony Brook
- New York (State)
Stony Brook (N.Y.)