We are glad to report that bargaining today was much more productive than it has been over the past sessions. The reason for this is straightforward- the University’s external council, Akerman LLP lawyers, were not present at bargaining.
In their absence, we were able to make significant movement towards a compromise agreement on how to safely and transparently manage remote bargaining attendance for all New School community members. The University recognized that it was in fact the Union that had initially proposed that New School Community members should be entitled to observe bargaining in the interests of transparency and that it was the University that had initially proposed restricting bargaining attendance to the two sides’ respective bargaining teams.
The BC presented four new proposals to the University (detailed below) building on the five proposals that we presented at our last bargaining session. We expect to continue presenting proposals at subsequent bargaining meetings. Unfortunately, the University has maintained that “[They] are not providing counter-responses without understanding the complete package and interests of the union,” effectively leaving our proposals lying cold without substantive response.
Access to information about our membership is crucial to our ability both to bargain in the interest of all of our members, and to enforce our current and any future contract (see below for information on contract expiration). We had an extensive conversation regarding the relationship between our previous information request and our Bargaining Unit Information article proposal. The University acknowledged that providing their (incomplete) information request response in the form of an 800 page PDF format document converted from Excel spreadsheets was unproductive. However, they continue to misunderstand their responsibilities to provide bargaining and employment relevant information to the recognized representative of Academic Student Workers – our union. Unfortunately, we had to file a grievance as the University has still not provided basic information about who and how many SENS members are employed in the coming semester, something they were contractually required to share by August 1st.
More information about the proposals we brought to bargaining today and about the potential consequences of our contract expiration can be found below.
The BC presented four new articles at this bargaining session. View them in their entirety here or read on for a summary.
- Article 12 – Hiring and Onboarding: Our proposal responds to a number of persistent issues raised by members:
- In recognition of the costs associated with beginning a new semester after a summer without pay, our proposal ensures that all ASWs are awarded $800 in advance pay before the semester begins. This advance pay will increase by $100 in each subsequent year of the new contract. In cases when an ASW is expected to earn less than $800 over the course of the semester, they will instead be advanced their total expected pay.
- Setting the first payment (after the advance payment described above) for workers on stipends and hourly workers at 14 days from the beginning of work rather than the current 28 days
- Establishing a late payment penalty fee awarded to ASWs in cases when ASWs pay is delayed through no fault of the ASW
- Article 17 – Intellectual Property Rights: Our proposal brings us up to the new industry standard set by Harvard University by ensuring that the University post and maintain a ‘plain language’ summary, legible to non-lawyers, of all intellectual property policies on its website and that it updates all workers to any changes in intellectual property policy.
- Article 18 – Space and Equipment: Our proposal on space and equipment includes four new provisions designed to facilitate our work:
- We have proposed a $100 materials stipend for Teaching Fellows tasked with creating a new course or updating an existing course for the purpose of purchasing books or other course materials to review.
- We have also requested that all ASWs who work in the 6 East 16th Building be provided with key cards (the same that Full Time Faculty and Staff receive) to access the elevators located at 79 5th Avenue so that ASWs can avoid long elevator lines.
- In recognition of the fact that ASWs are often tasked with signing guests into University buildings for events, we have proposed that ASWs should be allowed to sign in 8 guests at a time, rather than 2.
- Finally, have also requested that the University consider extending building hours for ASWs to whatever extent is feasible.
- Article 20 – Timeliness of Pay: On our new proposal:
- If an ASW is paid late and incurs university late fees (e.g. tuition or fees late payment penalties) due to not having been paid on time, the ASW can submit a claim of late payment and waive any fees they have incurred from the universities.
- If an ASW is not paid on time or is paid late, they can submit a claim of late payment. If the University does not process payment within 5 business days (for pay cards) or 10 business days (for direct deposits) from the date of the request, then they will be required to award the ASW with a late fee of 15% pre-tax daily pay for each day after the 5 or 10 business day period.
One last piece of big news for our members. Our contract is expiring on August 31st. What does this mean?
Not much! Day to day, very little (if anything) will change, and bargaining will continue. When working “out of contract,” both our union and the university have an obligation to maintain “status quo” (a.k.a working conditions as outlined in the previous contract.) The only contract articles that fall into suspension are the No Strike/No Lockout clause, and grievance arbitration provisions. This means that once the contract has expired, we regain our right to strike and take other forms of concerted action. However, we cannot strike unless the membership takes a strike authorization vote. We currently have no plans to call for a strike authorization vote. Should that change, the BC will be in contact with membership and we will host a deliberative and participatory process to discuss whether or not our union should strike.
Our next scheduled bargaining session is on Sept. 11. We’d especially love for members to attend this session, either in person or remotely. To RSVP to attend, contact email@example.com
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