Paul L. Caron

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Foundation Rescinds Book Award to Death by a Thousand Cuts Because of Co-Author's Opposition to Unionization of Yale Graduate Students

Death_by_a_thousand_cutsYesterday, we blogged the Yale press release (dated 5/23/06) stating that Michael J. Graetz (Yale) & Ian Shapiro (Yale) had won the Sidney Hillman Foundation Award for their book Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth (Princeton University Press, 2005).  According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the foundation at the last minute rescinded the award because of Shapiro's opposition to the unionization of Yale graduate students.  From Book Prize Is Yanked From Yale Professors Over Author's Role in Graduate-Student Labor Dispute, by Jennifer Howard:

Two Yale University professors, Ian Shapiro and Michael J. Graetz, expected to receive a 2006 Sidney Hillman Award on Tuesday at a ceremony in New York City. Instead, they got phone calls on Tuesday morning telling them that the judges had reversed the decision to honor the professors' book on the repeal of the estate tax....

The telephone calls came from Bruce Raynor, president of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, which sponsors the awards....

Mr. Raynor told the authors that the last-minute reversal had been based on information that came to light about Mr. Shapiro's dealings with members of GESO, the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, in its efforts to organize a graduate-student union at Yale in the 1990s....

Mr. Graetz and Mr. Shapiro pointed out that the book, which was published last year by Princeton University Press, does not address labor organizing. "There is no connection to GESO at all," Mr. Graetz said. "This book has absolutely nothing to do with the graduate students."...

The move toward rethinking the award began last week. On Thursday, May 18, the Hillman Foundation ran an advertisement in The New York Times listing the 2006 winners in several categories: book, magazine, broadcast, photojournalism, newspaper, and blog, a new category this year. Mr. Shapiro's and Mr. Graetz's book was listed as the winner in the book category. Although Mr. Shapiro and Mr. Graetz had written "an excellent book," Mr. Raynor told The Chronicle, the decision came down to "more than just the words on the page."

Mr. Meyerson [one of the judges] read a statement he delivered Tuesday night at the awards ceremony. "Normally judges evaluate the dancer, not the dance," he said. "What we tried to do in the excruciatingly limited time available to us was to gauge the severity and credibility of the allegations. ... A crucial factor for us was that the National Labor Relations Board in the region issued a complaint against several Yale professors, and Professor Shapiro most particularly, for these actions."

As Mr. Meyerson and Mr. Shapiro both noted, the labor board

never adjudicated the graduate students' complaint because their labor action failed to meet certain legal criteria. "There was never any hearing on the merits of the complaint," Mr. Shapiro said. "People like me never got to come into a hearing and say, What's the evidence that I threatened anyone?"

Mr. Meyerson said he had consulted with a friend who was a labor lawyer, who told him that "such a complaint would not have been issued if the NLRB attorneys had not found the claims to be credible and meritorious." In the end, Mr. Meyerson and the other judges concluded that "Professor Shapiro's actions rose to a level that required the rethinking of the award."

"What we came down to was that the book was eminently qualified to win many other awards," he said, but did not fit the criteria of the Hillman Prize.

Book Club, Law School, News, Tax Profs | Permalink

TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Foundation Rescinds Book Award to Death by a Thousand Cuts Because of Co-Author's Opposition to Unionization of Yale Graduate Students:


Anti-union activity seems pretty relevent to an award of that very same union.

What union? It was "The Sidney Hillman Foundation" that gave out the award.

Whats been clearly established here is that the award is a joke, given for "political merit" instead of actual merit.

If you don't realize the difference between those two things, I pity you.

If you realize the difference but don't care, or value political merit more, I despise you.

Posted by: Greg D | May 30, 2006 12:09:50 PM

I think this is a crucial passage you (intentionally?) left out:
"It flies in the face of Sidney Hillman's beliefs and his life," he said, "to present the award to someone who had been actively engaged in resisting union-organization attempts by graduate teaching assistants to join Sidney Hillman's union."

Mr. Raynor added, "We wish we had had this information before the award announcement went out. We regret it, and we certainly don't seek to embarrass Professor Shapiro."

Anti-union activity seems pretty relevent to an award of that very same union.

Posted by: PantsB | May 28, 2006 11:49:24 PM

Yet another example of the liberal tolerance of the left.

Posted by: Gerry | May 28, 2006 4:45:41 AM

So the award is just for being PC. What a bunch of jerks.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz | May 27, 2006 7:18:56 PM

The Golden Rule in action: Them that has the gold makes the rules.

Posted by: chsw | May 27, 2006 6:52:56 PM