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Respect Workers' Rights at the NYU Abu Dhabi Campus

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We are appalled by continuing reports of gross human rights and workers’ rights violations that occurred during the four-year long construction of the NYU Abu Dhabi campus on Saadiyat Island, and by NYU’s failure to take meaningful steps to prevent future abuse.

Several reports by Human Rights Watch, The New York Times, The Guardian, Gulf Labor Coalition and other independent investigators have extensively documented numerous human rights abuses of workers employed on the NYUAD construction project, including endemic low pay, delayed and non-payment of wages, substandard housing and accommodation, confiscation of workers' passports, failure to reimburse workers for exorbitant recruitment fees, and the summary deportation of more than 200 NYU workers in October of 2013 who exercised their right to protest pay discrepancies.  NYU has not compensated these workers; the labor compliance monitor that NYU appointed had a prior contract with the Abu Dhabi government — a clear conflict of interest — and failed to report that NYU workers had been deported for striking; NYU has not guaranteed the rights of current and future workers at the NYUAD campus to organize, strike and collectively bargain.

NYU President John Sexton has characterized the university as a sanctuary. But sanctuaries do not allow the workers who build their structures to be intimidated and beaten, to have their passports withheld, or to be expelled from the country where they work. It is not too late to redress these wrongs.

As global citizens and members of the university community, we call on NYU to live up to its ideals as a “private university in the public service” by fairly compensating workers for past abuses and securing present and future labor rights. As demanded in the letter delivered by NYU student, faculty and worker groups on February 17, 2015, we demand that NYU:

(1) Justly compensate the NYUAD construction workers who were jailed and deported

(2) Amend NYU’s Statement of Labor Values to recognize the rights of workers on all campuses, particularly freedom of association, the right to strike, and the right to organize and collectively bargain. We demand that NYU work with organizations in the region to implement these changes and ensure meaningful worker representation moving forward.

(3) Publicly disclose the Code of Conduct that operationalizes labor standards at NYUAD

(4) Implement NYU’s Statement of Labor Values by appointing an independent monitor of labor compliance

(5) Initiate cross-campus faculty and student-led research on the current system of migrant labor employed at NYUAD

Kristina Bogos, Coalition for Fair Labor at NYU, College of Arts and Science 2015
Astha Sharma Pokharel, NYU School of Law 2017
Andrew Lyubarsky, NYU School of Law 2016
Hugh Baran, NYU School of Law 2017
Daniel Aldana Cohen, GSOC-UAW, PhD Candidate Sociology
Valerie Forman, Associate Professor, Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Rebecca E Karl, History and East Asian Studies
Hannah Gurman, Clinical Assistant Professor
Gallatin School of Individualized Study
Sravya Movva, NYU School of Law 2015
John Archer, Professor, Department of English
Molly Nolan, Professor of History

(Photo: BK Gulf labor camp in Dubai where police beat workers and took strikers to jail. Courtesy of Sean O'Driscoll)



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