There is a lot to share after yesterday’s eventful bargaining session. Here are some of the headlines:
The University has agreed to our proposed compromise on remote bargaining attendance, so pending a written agreement we should begin live-streaming all future bargaining sessions on a rotating basis beginning. These are open to all members of the TNS community and will require sign-in with a TNS email address. (Click this link for a timeline of what it took to reach a basic agreement on bargaining transparency that sets the record straight).
We presented four new proposals at bargaining this morning. Most important for members is a proposal on one of our top priority issues: tuition waiver benefits for our working members! You can find the full proposals here and read more about them below.
Discrimination and Harassment Discussion
We questioned the university about provisions in two articles of their contract proposal – Disability Rights and Access and Discrimination and Harassment – that reduce our members rights by excluding disputes over discrimination and harassment from the third party mediated grievance and binding arbitration process.
The University acknowledged in our first bargaining session that they are indeed proposing to take existing rights away from our members, but claimed they had no choice in order to comply with a Department of Education Title IX rule order of May 2020. They echoed this position on their Instagram page. However, they have so far failed to provide any evidence of case law or even a legal interpretation of the May 2020 rule that would explain why they believe it requires them to remove our rights to third party arbitration. If they did truly perceive such a conflict, they would have been contractually required to alert us in 2020 as our previous contract includes third-party arbitration. Further, just last year, well after the 2020 rule was in effect, our siblings at NYU GSOC and throughout the University of California System signed new contracts that provide for third party arbitration in cases of discrimination and harassment. If this wasn’t a conflict for NYU or the UC system, why would it be a conflict for TNS? We hope the University will provide us with the information that we need to develop a comprehensive counter-proposal on these issues that protects our members.
Members of the NWSU organizing committee joined our meeting to deliver a formal request for neutrality to the University. This is an opportunity for the University to do the right thing and agree to allow NSWU workers to democratically decide whether or not they wish to join SENS. So far, the University has instead chosen to drag NSWU workers through a lengthy NLRB hearing process where they have fought to exclude as many workers as possible from the new bargaining unit. During these hearings the University referred to NSWU workers as “the lowest form of employees” at the New School, an egregious insult directed at a group of workers without whom there would be no New School. It would go a long way towards restoring trust on campus for the University to agree to drop their aggressive stance, agree to neutrality and let our NSWU colleagues join us.
The University did not bring any proposals or counter-proposals to this session. Instead, they had prepared a set of questions regarding our previous proposals, most of which had already been answered by the Union. Curiously, the University requested our help in identifying ‘holes’ in their own internal operations that have led to numerous SENS members working without pay as the University has failed to onboard them in a timely manner. If there are ‘holes’ to be found we suspect they were dug when the University decided to fire over 120 crucial staff members in 2020 against the protests of staff, faculty, and students, who have since had to bear the burden of understaffing.
In response to our concerns about potential wage theft and untimely pay, the University demeaningly referred to the wage labor we do for the University as “funding opportunities that some of your members depend on.” That’s what they think of our lives and livelihoods.
Information Request Issues
The University still has not delivered 1) urgently needed information regarding our membership in a useable format (they sent us an 800 page PDF document of crucial Excel spreadsheets that were re-formatted to PDF, rendering them useless for quantitative analysis) and 2) information regarding our currently employed membership that they were contractually required to deliver by August 1. We are well into the semester and still don’t have a list of our currently working members. The University claimed, on unclear grounds, that while they could deliver this information by August 1 in every previous year of our contract, they could not this year. Why not?
Read on to learn more about the proposals we brought to the table!
Tuition Waiver: We proposed a new article that would include SENS members in the University’s existing employee tuition waiver program. On our proposal, working SENS members will be eligible for automatically applied tuition waivers for any courses they are enrolled in within their program of study, including non-credit courses like ‘maintaining status.’ Their dependents would be eligible to take up to two courses per semester, as is the case for dependents of most other employees at TNS.
Anti-Bullying: We proposed a new Anti-Bullying article that clearly defines supervisorial bullying, ensures that members who have been bullied or abused by a supervisor can seek justice through the grievance and arbitration process and establishes an additional confidential mechanism through which ASWs can report bullying or abusive supervisorial behavior.
Management Rights: We’ve proposed some changes to Article X, which covers Management Rights. We have removed a sentence authorizing the University to subcontract out our jobs. We also specified that academic employees (full-time faculty, part-time faculty, Academic Deans, and ASWs), in accordance with the established norms of academic integrity, should be those with the authority to make decisions regarding who is taught, what is taught, how it is taught, who does the teaching, as well as which research methodologies/standards are employed in research based work.
Academic Student Workers’ Rights and Responsibilities: We proposed an update to Article XI on ASW’s rights and responsibilities that grants ASWs the right to transition their in-person courses to an online modality in cases of inclement weather recognized by government agencies. As climate change renders dangerous weather increasingly common in NYC, we think this is a common sense amendment that protects our members and TNS students.