Update from Friday 19 October 2018
After a 3 year legal battle for recognition and almost 60 bargaining sessions over the past 14 months, the Student Employees at The New School call on the administration to settle a contract that meaningfully benefits all academic student workers. At this point in negotiations, we believe the administration needs to hear from you – our members and supporters. When you act, the administration listens.
Join us for a rally Wednesday, October 24 at 11:30 am in front of the University Center to show the administration that our community stands behind academic student workers in their fight for a fair contract. Members of SENS will be joined by local politicians and other unionized workers who recognize the incredibly valuable research and teaching work we do for the university. Speakers include:
- Deborah Glick, New York State Assemblyperson
- Julia Salazar, New York State Senate Candidate
- Brad Hoylman, New York State Senator
- Fordham Faculty Member who recently won a contract
- Beverly Brakeman, UAW Region 9A Director
The New School only spends 1.4% of its total operating budget on academic student workers; we are asking them to increase that rate to 1.85%. The administration repeatedly claims to respect student workers, but their insistence on 2% wage increases and health insurance benefits that would exclude 90% of workers in our unit suggest otherwise. To see where both sides currently stand, click here.
Recognition is not enough, we need resources.
Update from Monday 15 October 2018
On Friday, October 12th The New School administration sent an email to the community at large that continued in their tradition of substantially mischaracterizing the state of negotiations and SENS’ position on key issues. They cited blatantly incorrect and misleading information about the proposals SENS has put forward on economic issues. The truth is that SENS is asking for a fair compensation package for workers that reflects the significant value we add to this institution and includes:
- Fair wages. SENS is proposing wage increases which will correct for a long history of low pay for academic student workers. This aligns with other first-contract negotiations at the school. For example, in the Part-Time Faculty’s initial contract, wages went up substantially: for many, wages increased by $10 per hour. It is disappointing to see the New School administration attempt to sow dissension among workers at the university by suggesting that SENS’ proposals are unreasonably higher than those made by other unionized employees.The administration also cites comparisons to other student worker salaries that are patently unfair. They compare students who do clerical jobs elsewhere with students here who do high-level research work, assist in courses, and teach. For a more accurate comparison, please see our comparison chart, with citations for our references, here.
- Meaningful discounts on health insurance and fees. If we’re going to compare New School workers to workers at other schools, we have to recognize that peer institutions offer tuition remission and health insurance to a high proportion of grad student workers. The administration’s email says that they are focused on providing health insurance benefits to the widest group of academic student workers possible, but their current proposals suggest otherwise. Their current proposal on health insurance includes eligibility requirements that exclude 75% of workers in the unit from ever earning a discount on health insurance coverage.
- A child care fund. The administration’s email states that we have “inquired about” child care assistance. We want to clarify that we have an active proposal for a childcare fund on the table, and that we remain committed to bargaining for meaningful benefits for students who are also parents. This is a benefit that the school should provide across the board to its employees.
Overall the administration still seems to fail to grasp the precarious nature of academic student workers at The New School. For example, suggesting that an academic student worker earning a wage of $43.82 per hour is earning the equivalent of $80,000 per year entirely overlooks the facts that a) that student is restricted to being paid for 10 hours of work per week at that wage (and 20 hours per week total if they have a second position), b) they are only working during the academic semester, c) teaching fellows are the only SENS members at this proposed wage rate and are a small portion of the unit, and d) they are not guaranteed any sort of position the following semester. Student workers are in a continual struggle to make ends meet and end up accumulating huge student debt.
Misleading the university community does not help to move negotiations forward. We call on the administration to recognize the critical need for fair compensation for academic student workers and to put forward proposals that reflect the central role we play in the mission of this institution. SENS will continue to provide updates on the details of both sides’ economic packages.
Update from Wednesday 10 October 2018
Update from Saturday 6 October 2018
On Thursday, October 4, the Bargaining Committee met with the administration for our 55th bargaining session. In our previous bargaining session the committee argued against the onerous eligibility requirements in the administration’s healthcare proposal, which excluded the vast majority of SENS members from any health insurance discount. On Thursday, the administration acknowledged this concern and presented us with a new healthcare proposal, in which they lowered the amount a student worker would need to have earned in two previous semesters to qualify for the discount from $5,750 to $4,500.
We responded by stating that this new proposal still excludes far too many workers, and remains a much lower discount than most students would receive in comparable institutions. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by the movement from the administration. As we build workers’ power in the new academic year and sustain our outreach to over 400 supportive faculty (whom we have also recently updated), we will bring further pressure to bear, continuing to move the administration towards accepting the strong contract we need.
As you talk with your colleagues, friends, professors, and students about our fight for a contract, check out the infographic below, which compares academic student workers’ current compensation to the overall New School budget as well as to student worker compensation at comparable institutions. Feel free to draw on this as a resource for your conversations!SENS infographic
Update from Monday 1 October 2018
On Thursday, the SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee and the New School administration sat down at the bargaining table for their 54th bargaining session since starting in August 2017. During this session, SENS brought a new proposal on tuition and fees which holds to our goal of benefiting all academic student workers in the semesters they are working. The New School presented a revised proposal on health care that included only a marginal increase in health insurance discounts in the third and fourth year, and maintained their strict and unreasonable eligibility requirements. Under their current proposal, the majority of students are entirely excluded for the life of the contract. Even a research assistant working the maximum amount allowed at TNS during the semester (20 hours a week) every semester wouldn’t qualify for health care benefits until the fourth year. We think this is absolutely unacceptable, and will continue to push for meaningful benefits for all academic student workers.
SENS also provided information The New School requested about compensation at comparable institutions in New York City. As you can see in this chart, academic student workers at The New School earn significantly less in wages and benefits than workers at comparable institutions, including universities with varying funding models and resources at their disposal. On the basis of this data, we call on The New School to recognize that their proposal of 2% wage increases and highly exclusionary and inadequate benefits is unacceptable.
Update from Monday 17 September 2018
Our newly elected Bargaining Committee met with the administration to discuss economic proposals last Thursday. The administration persists with their offer of a 2% wage increase for each year of the contract while continuing to pursue eligibility criteria for other benefits that will exclude some of the most precarious workers in our unit like Course Assistants, RAs, and tutors. However, the BC feels that it’s important to make meaningful improvements on wages for all workers. We will continue to push for wage increases, health insurance, fee remission, childcare, and union leave to improve the working conditions of all workers.
Update from Thursday 6 September 2018
Bargaining committee election results:
Congratulations to our newly elected bargaining committee!
After our vote today, our full bargaining committee will represent us to bargain a strong contract for student workers:
Angela Butel (Public and Urban Policy, Milano)
Zoe Carey (Sociology, NSSR)
Michael Dobson (Politics, NSSR)
Cagla Orpen (Politics, NSSR)
Kevin Rice (Psychology, NSSR)
Jonas Voigt (Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons)
Update from Monday, 27 August 2018:
On Friday we met with the Administration and tentatively agreed a hiring and on-boarding clause that will provide many much-needed workplace protections for academic student workers, including:
- Ensuring there is no limit on the number of positions for which a student may apply;
- Ensuring that hiring decisions are based solely on an applicant’s qualifications for the relevant position;
- Ensuring student workers are on-boarded promptly, including with guidance for international students;
- Ensuring student workers are paid as soon in the semester as possible;
- Ensuring all student workers receive an Appointment Confirmation that provides a clear statement of their workload and hours, and a comprehensive list of their required duties;
- Ensuring student workers are not required to work more hours than specified in their Appointment Confirmation, or perform services outside the list of their required duties;
- Ensuring required meetings and office hours will be held on campus, unless meeting off campus is necessary for an ASW’s work.
These protections were hard to secure. It would not have been possible without the determination and commitment of our members beyond the negotiating table. With this piece of the non-economic aspect of the contract now secured, we only have the economics left. Here is a side-by-side of each side’s current economic proposals.
Update from Friday, 17 August 2018:
In meetings with the administration, the bargaining committee has continued to hash out hiring and on-boarding protections. We were optimistic that we would agree it this week, but the administration’s negotiating team returned to the table yesterday and withdrew language we had previously agreed, under directions from more senior administration decision makers. By not sending these decision makers to the table, the university is further delaying negotiations.
They have backed away from the tier system regarding healthcare, but have now set a requirement in which student workers must have made $5750 in three semesters to receive any benefit. This excludes the majority of the membership from any benefit. We do not think that healthcare benefits should be decided on the basis of how much workers earn. They continue to propose 2% wages each year of the contract across the membership, and to reject our proposal for a childcare fund. Their tuition and fees proposals amount to $74 for members who have worked previously and are working at least 10 hours in a given semester. These wages and benefits remain far below comparative institutions. The New School needs to do better.
Update from Friday, 20 July 2018
We met with the administration twice this week. They told us they do not intend to move on wages before we come closer on healthcare and tuition, and still have not accepted our proposal for a childcare fund. We strongly believe that all economic issues are interrelated and should be on the table. Their wage proposals remain lower in each year of the contract than raises given to student workers in 2016 and 2017. We continue to push back against their stringent eligibility criteria for student workers to receive health care discounts, and we hope the administration recognizes how impossible these restrictions are for our members.
We also put in a detailed request for more accurate figures from the university which both sides can use to cost economic proposals. Until now they have shared limited information, and admitted that the numbers they were using to cost proposals in May were inaccurate. We look forward to seeing the administration in August, and hope they come to the table with more economics, protections and information.
Update from Tuesday, 3 July 2018
We met with the administration last week in an open bargaining session. We responded to their proposal on workload protections, maintaining our position that they had previously rejected. We hope the university comes to understand the seriousness of this issue and will include real, contracted protections on workload. They gave us responses on hiring and onboarding and late pay, which still do not include guaranteed job offer letters before Fall 2019. This does not signify to us they are serious about getting a contract as fast as possible, despite their latest email communications.
We have agreed on bargaining dates through August and will keep you posted on any further progress.
Update from Friday, 22 June 2018
We met with the administration twice this week. While they continue to claim that they are committed to concluding a fair contract, their actions at the table tell a different story. On Tuesday, the administration categorically rejected including any specific contractual protections against ASWs being required to:
perform work outside their job description;
work more hours than specified in their appointment letter;
work outside normal work hours;
work at locations remote from their normal place of work.
The administration took this position after previously assuring us they understood the importance of these issues It is clear that much work remains to be done to ensure New School ASWs have the work protections they need.
In terms of economics, on Tuesday we brought an updated wage proposal, and on Thursday they came back with proposals on wages and healthcare. Here is an up-to-date overview of where both sides are at on economics, including dates of latest proposals and breakdowns on either side.
Update from Friday, 8 June 2018:
Yesterday, we met with the university, joined by two SENS members in an open bargaining session. We discussed hiring and onboarding processes. The university brought a revised proposal to the table that, again, did not reflect the critical protections we had underlined last week; that the university ensure ASWs can start work promptly, be paid on time, and are clearly informed of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the work they will be doing. We remain committed to securing a contract that will remedy the substantial inadequacies in the university’s current hiring and onboarding processes.
On Tuesday, the university offered us partial response to our information request on healthcare, and assured us yesterday that we would receive the outstanding information soon. They also gave us a full set of the university’s audited financial statements for the last five years, and are happy to provide these to any members of the unit who is interested in reviewing them. The last two years’ statements can also now be found on the TNS website.
Update from Thursday, 31 May 2018:
On Tuesday we met with the administration. We began by underlining our commitment to the importance of childcare as a means of supporting parents and fostering an inclusive university. We also had further negotiations around hiring and job security, reminding the administration that hiring procedures must not impede students’ ability to start and complete their work, and that this must be reflected in the contract. The administration continues to resist committing to the kind of improvements to its systems and procedures that would make this possible.
The administration has still not provided us with information about summer and fall hires. As usual, we are taking matters into our own hands… Please fill out this survey to let us know if you will be working as a TA, TF, Tutor, CA, or RA over the summer or in the fall.
Update from Tuesday, 22 May 2018
On Monday, we met with The New School administration. They made minimal movement on healthcare and wages, but these shifts remain dramatically below an offer that we can recommend to our membership.
The university has indicated a desire to meet multiple times per week over the summer. We have notified them in writing that we will do everything we can to meet their request. We are committed to keeping negotiations and lines of communication open, but given their continued failure to offer meaningful economic proposals, we anticipate the need for renewed collective engagement to push for our contract in the Fall.
Update from Thursday, 8 March 2018:
Update from Tuesday, 13 February 2018:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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:
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!