Bargaining Updates

Update from Thursday, 8 March 2018:

Great news!
 
We made good progress last week and reached a tentative agreement on an important contractual agreement that lays out our grievance, dispute and arbitration procedure. This agreement makes significant progress in a matter of critical importance to student workers at the New School and in universities across the country.
 
Additionally, we reached a tentative agreement securing our rights to unrestricted access to all and any available recourse for victims of sexual harassment and discrimination. This will allow student workers to use the contracted grievance and arbitration procedure to address harassment and discrimination in addition to any university policies, Title IX, and any legal or civil processes they want to pursue.
 
Congratulations on this huge victory! 
 
It should come as no surprise that we made progress the week after we announced the results of our overwhelmingly successful strike authorization vote. Our wins as a union have always come as a result of our show of strength as a unit at the bargaining table and beyond. 
 
However, the university still refuses to seriously engage our proposals on wages, benefits and late pay. We need to stay engaged and keep pushing to win this contract and show the administration how important these issues are to us. 

Update from Tuesday, 13 February 2018:

Yesterday we met with management and presented six updated proposals covering health and safety, the union grievance procedure, tax preparation services for workers, family and sick leave, and hiring and job security. We also presented our open letter regarding late pay, signed by 440 students, and reiterated to the administration the importance of including strong protections against late payment in our contract. Finally, we stressed the need for a robust procedure for addressing discriminatory harassment (including sexual harassment) and informed the administration that their current position — limiting harassment victims’ options for redress — is unacceptable.
 
On the other side of the table, the administration presented a single proposal in which they removed language requiring the university to provide offer letters to hired students. The most outrageous part — this was language that they had proposed themselves!
 
We will continue to fight our hardest to win a fair contract for us at the bargaining table, but if we are to win a truly strong collective agreement we will all need to be ready to take the fight beyond the bargaining table. Stay tuned!

 

Update from Wednesday, 7 February 2018:

Since the end of the fall term, the SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee has met with The New School management four more times. At our most recent session, management presented us with a proposal about “Hiring & Job Security.” While management recognizes the need to improve their onboarding processes and has outlined steps to do so in their response to several of our proposals, they have not addressed the problem of late pay. While they admit that we are the only group of workers at The New School that experience such difficulties with payment, they will not agree to include protections against late pay in the contract. The protections we proposed included notification of payment options in the case of a missed or inaccurate paycheck, prompt replies to inquiries about missed or inaccurate pay, and a small fee.

Management has responded to several other proposals and for the most part has refused the terms of our demands. For example, we have proposed that all Academic Student Workers (ASWs) have access to the Faculty Resource Center in the University Center to which they replied that only Teaching Fellows shall have access, which is the current policy. Management also rejected our proposal that ASWs who require accommodations not have to submit paperwork to two offices (Student Disabilities Services and Human Resources). Management argues that such a demand is unreasonable because it would require communication between SDS and HR.

In addition, we have not yet agreed to a dispute and grievance procedure because management is resisting our insistence that workers should have the right to file grievances related to sexual harassment and discrimination through the union’s grievance procedure in addition to filing a Title IX complaint. Instead, management wants to limit ASWs to one route of redress.

In the coming weeks, we expect to hear back from management about our economic proposals including wage increases, tuition and fee waivers, healthcare benefits, childcare subsidies, and retirement benefits. Please make sure to sign our letter about late pay, which will be presented to President Van Zandt and management.

Lastly, congratulations to Raven Hetzler and Louisa Strothman on being elected to the SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee!

Update from Tuesday, 12 December 2017:

On Tuesday December 12, we had our final negotiation session of the fall semester with the New School administration. During the session, we presented several new non-economic proposals and offered counters to proposals that the administration had previously responded to. We have made progress and are close to a full agreement on Travel & Meal Allowance and Bulletin Boards.

However, for some proposals, such as Disability Rights and Access and Leaves of Absence (paid sick leave and family leave), the university only agrees to a bare minimum of following city and state regulation. As we have been talking more about economic demands, the administration continues to push the narrative that such demands are costly and potentially not realistic. We know The New School has plenty of financial capital-they’re paying David Van Zandt a salary of over one million dollars and hired legal counsel to fight our union efforts for over three years. Nonetheless, we won’t re-open the topic of economic demands until the administration offers counter-proposals.

Today was the last bargaining session for Mark Rafferty and Katherine (Rose) Fox, as they are graduating this semester. Congrats, Mark and Rose! When we return from the break, bargaining committee nominations will open and we will have an election to fill their spots — stay tuned for updates on this.

Finally, if you’ve haven’t signed the petition to demand protections for late pay, please do so now. We will be delivering this letter directly to President Van Zandt.

Update from Monday, 4 December 2017:

We had another bargaining session with The New School Administration, and we presented them with our demands for higher wages, healthcare, childcare, and retirement benefits! The demands included immediate raises for all academic student workers and annual raises each year afterwards, funds for childcare for all workers with dependents, and free access to The New School’s health insurance plan for any semesters while working. We explained to the administration that student workers have been underpaid and overworked for so long, these demands are meant to bring us up to the basic level of compensation we deserve for the critical work we do making the school run. In addition, we explained that providing for healthcare and childcare are absolutely essential for making the school a more inclusive environment and giving more people the chances to stay at the school, work, and participate in the school’s academic life.

We won’t win these demands unless we have a strong showing of support from all our members. Sign the late pay letter! Come to a membership meeting! Talk to your coworkers! Let’s join together and win a contract with real economic gains!

Update from Tuesday, 14 November 2017:

Last Tuesday, the Union had another negotiation session with the New School administration. We made progress on several issues such as travel expenses, generally agreeing on the principle that academic student workers should be reimbursed for off-campus travel costs for work assignments.

We have been organizing around the issue of late pay since we came together to form a union back in 2014. It remains a staggering issue, with hundreds of student workers across all five colleges having been paid late at some point in the past few semesters. Although we had proposed to the Administration a contract article that ensured our right to be paid on time, established consequences (i.e. late fees) if the school paid us late, and laid out a procedure for how to get late payments corrected, the administration responded by dismissing our suggestions. Instead, they said they’d fix the late pay issue, asked us to trust them, and proposed leaving the issue out of the contract so we wouldn’t have any power to enforce on-time payments in the future.

We didn’t form a union to get the administration’s lukewarm policies to attend to issues which affect our livelihoods. We need a contract so we can hold them to their word and ensure that we get paid on time in the future. To bring attention to the importance of our work and getting paid on time, we will be having a work-in in the University Center on November 30, from 10 AM – 10 PM. Come and help make your work visible!

Here is the Facebook event.

Update from Monday, 30 October 2017:

On Monday October 30th, we met with The New School management for the seventh time this semester. We began by discussing the University’s failure to provide us vital information about the bargaining unit which is preventing us from putting together our key proposals. We also had to remind management that they have failed to provide a description of the procedure to be followed by workers who have not been paid or who have been underpaid, as discussed in the last bargaining session on October 19th.

We then presented ten new proposals and one revised proposal to the management. These proposals are on Clear and Timely Payments, Travel and Meal Allowance, Job Training, Leaves of Absence, assistance for International Student Workers in obtaining a Social Security Number, Tax Preparation Services for International Student Workers, Job Postings, Employee Assistance Program, Financial Statements (for the purpose of demonstrating financial position when renting an apartment etc.), Hiring and Job Security, and a revision of Grievance and Arbitration proposal.

We discussed the nature and language of these proposals and management expressed their reservations. In particular, they raised concerns about the proposal to increase the reporting period for cases of discriminatory harassment (including sexual harassment) from 20 days to 365 days, while at the same time their attorney said they would of course investigate a claim of sexual harassment even if it came in on day 367. The administration also said they are unwilling to consider paying a fee for late payments. This is despite the significant financial costs we bear as Academic Student Workers (ASWs), including a $150 fee if we pay our tuition late.

Given management’s formal reiteration to solve the problem of late-payment of wages, we request all ASWs who are struggling with late pay or underpayment issues to contact the Union with their specific problems (giving as much detail about start of employment, paydays, payment received, and yet to receive, etc.) at sensuaw@gmail.com.  Someone from the Union will get back to you and assist you with navigating the New School Human Resources procedures. If you are unsure about whether you are being properly paid, please contact the Union and we will assist you. Attached is a document to help you find out whether you might be missing any wages.

Here are the instructions to see wage breakdown: WAGE BREAKDOWN
.

Update from Thursday, 19 October 2017:

On Thursday October 19, the Bargaining Committee met with New School management for the sixth time this semester. The request for the University to provide information remains an open question – the nature and depth of the information that the University is willing to provide is still under discussion. New School management then presented the Bargaining Committee with three proposed responses on topics discussed last week: Intellectual Property, Disability Access and Office Space/Equipment. The nature and language of these proposals was discussed to some extent during the meeting, but will be subject to further review by the Bargaining Committee. The Bargaining Committee will continue to draft key proposals on economic issues such as healthcare and wages, as well as non-economic issues including grievance procedures, harassment, non-discrimination and job security.

In our attempts to continue to shed light on the systemic, serious and pressing issue of late payments, four testimonials (including, in some cases, pay figures, data and communication records) were provided by student workers and discussed during the meeting. Issues touched upon during these discussions included late payments, non-payments, poorly defined or unclear work and payment specifications, as well as specific issues faced by international students in receiving payments. Between student pay databases, concrete examples and testimonials, the Bargaining Committee hopes to bring to light the seriousness of the pay gap issue at the New School.

If you have any issues with late pay, or if you haven’t been paid correctly, please get in touch.

Update from Thursday, 12 October 2017:

On Thursday October 12, the Bargaining Committee met with New School management for the fifth time this semester. We continued to press the University to provide us with information about the unit from our initial information request. The Bargaining Committee then presented the University with a report regarding pay discrepancies based on data the University previously supplied. This report includes information from Spring 2014 through Spring 2017 and details numerous occasions in which Academic Student Workers (ASWs) were paid late and (possibly) not fully paid for work completed in their respective academic positions. The University is now investigating these matters, which we will continue to address at subsequent bargaining sessions.

In addition, we presented concrete examples about how pay stubs don’t disaggregate wages if an ASW is working in multiple positions with the same title (TA, RA, etc.) and demonstrating that some workers have yet to be paid for work that started in late August.

Lastly, we presented four proposals that address the following issues: Intellectual Property; Disability Access; Health and Safety & Labor Management Committee; and Office Space and Equipment. The University is currently reviewing these proposals. We are continuing to draft our key proposals, including economic items such as wages and healthcare.

Update from Wednesday, 20 September 2017:

On Wednesday September 20th, our newly-elected bargaining committee sat down for our first negotiation session with The New School.

Management responded to some of our initial proposals around basic contract language with no major additions or agreements. We are still waiting for The New School to give us some information about the unit from our initial info request, but now that we have an elected committee, we will start working through the information from our bargaining survey to start putting together our initial proposals around the issues that matter to us.

Also, on Wednesday, a member of our bargaining committee, Lisa Lipscomb, testified at the Graduate Workers of Columbia forum on student workers’ rights alongside elected representatives and fellow student workers from across the region. We hope our election win and contract negotiations continue to inspire other student workers to keep fighting, and shame administrations like Columbia’s into doing the right thing and respecting student workers rights!

In solidarity,
Katherine Fox
Mithra Lehn
Lisa Lipscomb
Mark Rafferty
Srishti Yadav
Daniel Younessi