It's not particularly surprising to learn that the John Sexton-led New York University is building its latest monument of "higher education" on the backs and sweat of abused workers. After all, Sexton and NYU led a vicious anti-union campaign to deny graduate students the right to have a union, and tried to kill the union at the end of a four-year agreement. The higher-ups at NYU are despicable, anti-union thugs--and they are happy to let people be abused half around the world, all for the glory of an academic empire.
Kudos to The New York Times for this expose on labor conditions at an NYU campus being built in Abu Dhabi:
Facing criticism for venturing into a country where dissent is not tolerated and labor can resemble indentured servitude, N.Y.U. in 2009 issued a “statement of labor values” that it said would guarantee fair treatment of workers. But interviews by The New York Times with dozens of workers who built N.Y.U.’s recently completed campus found that conditions on the project were often starkly different from the ideal.The entire story details repeated abuse--abuse NYU officials, of course, just would be shocked, shocked, shocked to hear of:
Virtually every one said he had to pay recruitment fees of up to a year’s wages to get his job and had never been reimbursed. N.Y.U.’s list of labor values said that contractors are supposed to pay back all such fees. Most of the men described having to work 11 or 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, just to earn close to what they had originally been promised, despite a provision in the labor statement that overtime should be voluntary.
The men said they were not allowed to hold onto their passports, in spite of promises to the contrary. And the experiences of the BK Gulf strikers, a half dozen of whom were reached by The Times in their home countries, stand in contrast to the standard that all workers should have the right to redress labor disputes without “harassment, intimidation, or retaliation.”
Some men lived in squalor, 15 men to a room. The university said there should be no more than four.
Told of the laborers’ complaints, officials said they could not vouch for the treatment of individual construction workers, since they are not employees of the university but rather of companies that work as contractors or subcontractors for the government agency overseeing the project. Those companies are contractually obligated to follow the statement of labor values.Oooopppssss:
To help monitor the situation, an engineering firm, Mott MacDonald, has been on hand to interview workers and prepare annual reports. The latest, released last month, noted some challenges, including a single contractor who fell behind on one month’s wages, but concluded, “Over all, there is strong evidence confirming the N.Y.U.A.D. project is taking workers’ rights seriously.”
The report made no mention of the BK Gulf strike, or the strikers’ demands for more pay.And, finally:
But in a separate interview, Ms. Bavuso said that beyond setting forth the broad principle of fair compensation, N.Y.U. does not actually monitor what the construction companies pay their workers, nor should it. “We’re not involved in the negotiation of the contracts that the partners are doing, just as they’re not in the negotiation of the contracts that we’re doing,” she said. “We have a relationship with our partners, and so we have to trust that what they’re coming up with are the reasonable wages on their end.”Ok, so, here is what needs to be said.
This is pretty typical standard operating procedure: to create a veneer of deniability, NYU doesn't actually employ the workers--it uses the typical exploitative model, throwing off the work to contractors. Not only does that keep any benefits off NYU's books, but, more important, it allows NYU to say, "gee, isn't this terrible, we had no idea".
Which is a lie. NYU knew precisely where it was building this campus--in an authoritarian country where labor rights are non-existent. But, NYU was being bought off, with legal bribes, to the tune of "several $50 million donations to N.Y.U. as a whole", as the article points out.
But, that's the NYU way--a veneer of education covering up some pretty sleazy behavior.