In our last bargaining session with The New School, we finally managed to reach tentative agreement on nine non-economic articles, including:
- Article VI: Meeting Space: We have increased the number of membership meetings that the union can schedule.
- Article X: Management Rights: No change from the last contract.
- Article XI: Academic Student Worker Rights & Responsibilities: We have agreed on a system of absence plans to allow members to negotiate advanced permission to transition classes online in cases of illness or inclement weather.
- Article XV: Expense Reimbursement: Academic student workers are pre-approved to get reimbursed for up to 20 dollars for each course to cover last-minute course related expenses like markers, erasers, and artistic supplies, when those supplies have not been already provided by the University.
- Article XXVI: Health & Safety: No change from the last contract here.
- Article XVIII: Space & Equipment: No change from the last contract here.
- Article XXIX: Labor Management: No change from the last contract here.
- Article XXXIII: Entire Agreement: No change from last contract here.
- New Article: Academic Freedom: We now receive the same language ensuring our right to academic freedom that the Part-Time Faculty have in their contract, codifying our right to academically and artistically express ourselves without fear of retaliation.
We were thrilled to be able to finally wrap up negotiations on these non-economic issues, although the University did not make it easy for us. They attempted to hinge an agreement to these articles on our agreement to withdraw our proposals academic freedom and job security. We stayed at the bargaining table for an extra two hours to convince them these are significant issues our members want to see addressed in a new contract.
Ultimately, we reached a compromise: tentatively agree to the first eight articles, take the codification of academic freedom out of our new article on Appointments, Reappointments and Protected Activities to create its own separate article, and agree to discuss the points on appointments and reappointments when we discuss Article XII: Hiring and Onboarding down the line in bargaining. It was clear the University’s team did not want to address the pressing and immediate issue of academic freedom on campus.
This is the most progress we have made since contract negotiations began in July 2023, and yet they are still asking us to give up our right to a neutral and timely 3rd party arbitration process if we experience harassment and discrimination. Even still, it took six months of heated negotiations for us to reach agreement on just the above handful of articles – one of which the University was intent on sweeping under the rug. It has taken a lot of dedicated work from our bargaining committee to get to this point. If we want to ensure more progress is made quicker on the issues that directly affect our members’ living conditions (none of which we have received counter proposals to from the university, let alone gotten into meaningful discussion about at the bargaining table), we need membership to vote to authorize a strike.
These economic priorities, which we presented to the University in October with no response to date include:
- Achieving pay parity with other local institutions (like NYU and Columbia) and moving closer to receiving a living wage. The University’s current offer is a 29% pay increase over a five year contract term, which would ultimately amount to $1-$2 raises per year. We are asking for a 40% retroactive raise in year 1 with 13.5% raises per year thereafter over a 3 year contract term. This would mean that effective September 1, 2023, all workers receive at least a $10/hr raise, with additional raises as high as $9/hr in subsequent years. Unfortunately these raises still will not bring us to a living wage, but it’s a start.
- Free healthcare for all academic student workers and their dependents, plus the creation of a Health and Welfare Fund so workers can afford dental and vision insurance. Currently, workers pay for costly insurance up front and are given a fractional rebate only after meeting specific requirements (which include working two or more semesters). We do not want members to have to pay for health insurance at all.
- Support for the many challenges international students, who make up a significant portion of the student workforce, face on campus and beyond, including the ability to use The New School as a housing guarantor, the creation of a legal assistance fund, a two (rather than one) year STEM OPT extension, and stronger privacy protections on campus.
- Protections that ensure you are paid in a timely manner for your work. Too many student workers are asked to start their assignments before they have been fully onboarded into the University’s payroll system. This is unacceptable and our goal is to ensure members always know when they can expect their next paycheck.
- Pay for curriculum development to ensure members’ work outside of classroom hours is properly valued. We are currently asking for $2,000 per course to be paid prior to the first pay period of the semester. Our hope is to follow in the footsteps of part-time faculty, who opened the door to this possibility during their 2022 negotiations.
- The creation of a childcare fund that our members can access up to $5,000 from per semester to support them in their dual roles as workers and parents.
- The creation of a professional development fund, which both our union siblings in Part-Time Faculty and SHS won during their recent contract negotiations.
- Full waiver of University Service and International Student Fees for all academic student workers. These are unnecessary upfront costs our members do not need to bear.
- A tuition waiver along the lines of what faculty and staff currently receive, eliminating the significant cost burden of paying for courses while employed.
- Extension of and increased eligibility for paid time off and leave, plus the expansion of the range of situations for which paid leave is available.
- Expanded health care including codification of the free medication abortion and other reproductive care services currently offered through SHS, as well as access to stipends for gender affirming care should a members’ insurance not fully cover it.
- Expanded mental health care that gives all student workers access to 12 in-person SHS counseling sessions per year, plus support during the transition to further care if needed. Our country is in a mental health crisis and its important that our members’ mental health needs are taken seriously, while at the same time supporting the work of our union siblings at SHS.
While we made good progress in the January 26 bargaining session, much more is required to reach a full contract agreement. Given how challenging it has been to reach this point at all, our Bargaining Committee has decided to call for a Strike Authorization Vote. The University has shown us continuously over the last six months that they do not take our members’ concerns seriously, so we must prepare for a possible strike. A strike is historically a union’s only real source of power at the negotiation table, and while it is not necessary yet, it may be down the line. In order for a strike to occur, membership must first democratically vote to authorize it through a ⅔ majority. The last thing we as a union want to do is strike, but if we cannot get the University to even talk to us about key economic priorities, it may be our only choice.
The strike authorization vote will consist of an online ballot that will be emailed to your New School email address. More details on the timing of the vote coming soon.