Despite a strong National Labor Relations Board ruling affirming the union rights of student assistants at private universities, in the Columbia case, the New School continues to ignore our choice to unionize and disregard the consistent support we have repeatedly shown for SENS-UAW. The NLRB also has not yet taken action on our case.
We cannot afford to wait for the NLRB, nor The New School administration who has so far refused to exercise its right to engage in a voluntary recognition process like NYU. So, today we delivered a message signed by student employees from across campus with a strong message to Van Zandt. If he doesn’t proceed with recognizing our union, we will start preparing for a strike authorization vote early Spring Semester..
HUGE NEWS! We just won back our union rights thanks to a sweeping decision today by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Yes WE ARE WORKERS!
The NLRB just ruled on GWC-UAW’s case at Columbia University restoring collective bargaining rights for graduate employees in private universities.
We expect the NLRB to rule on SENS-UAW’s case soon. If not we’ll reach out to them and update you as soon as we have more information.
Today’s decision – the result of years of tireless organizing by graduate employees – means we could have the opportunity to vote in a NLRB election and decide on having SENS-UAW as our union. If the majority of us vote yes, The New School would be legally obliged to engage in collective bargaining with us.
With collective bargaining, we would have the power to bargain as equals with The New School and make much needed improvements to our working lives. Any improvements would be secured in a contract that could not be changed without our agreement. We would be recognized for the significant role our teaching and research plays in making The New School a top-class institution.
Inspired by the Precarious Workers Pageant at the Venice Biennale (2015), SENS-UAW demonstrated the difficulty of life without a union. The Precarity Circus featured clowns struggling to keep all the balls in the air, unstable balancers, and inflexible contortionists.
THIS FRIDAY EVENING AT THE NEW SCHOOL!
Celebrate Labor History and Join the SENS-UAW Precarity Circus
Don’t Mourn, Organize! Performances in Celebration of Labor Troubador Joe Hill (1879-1915) Friday, November 20, 7-9pm, John L. Tishman Auditorium, University Center, 63 5th Avenue. Click here to get a free ticket!
Join the SENS-UAW Precarity Circus before the Joe Hill event!
A number of us plan to attend the Joe Hill celebration and hope you will join us. We will also hold our first and, hopefully, last Precarity Circus to demonstrate the difficulty of life without a union. The Precarity Circus will feature clowns struggling to keep all the balls in the air, unstable balancers, and inflexible contortionists. If you would like to join our circus, please come prepared to demonstrate the challenging labor conditions we face at The New School. We will have face paint and snacks — bring your own costume and sense of humor.
Not much of a performer? No problem. Volunteers are welcome to distribute leaflets, hold signs, and take pictures and, of course, wear one of the newly-created, union-printed SENS-UAW t-shirts.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, or join us Friday afternoon as we prepare starting at 5:30 pm in the Social Justice Hub, 63 5th Avenue room 513. Or just show up at 6:15 outside Tishman Auditorium to help distribute information about our campaign to allies in the labor movement and broader community attending the Joe Hill event.
The National Labor Relations Board formally granted review of our case, which we hope will overturn the Brown decision. This is great news for graduate employees who have committed years of organizing to win back our right to collective bargaining. While this is a huge step forward, we still believe that the New School administration should do the right thing right now, and allow graduate employees to decide for ourselves whether or not to unionize in a fair and democratic election without waiting for the NLRB. Read more on the press coverage page of our website .
A Few Updates and Come to the Work-in Tomorrow and Wednesday!
It’s been a busy couple of weeks at SENS-UAW, full of flyers, film screenings and planning. We had a town hall where the question of the union was again put to the administration. The video is here if you skip ahead to 1hr and 13 minutes in, there’s a beautiful statement about our work from SENS-UAW members Zoe Carey and Eli Nadeau. Support for the union was strong in the Q&A and the rest of the Town Hall.
President Van Zandt sidestepped the issue, promising to consider the question of unionization. This isn’t a surprise, but it is a disappointment. This issue has been on his desk for ten months. Far from being neutral, the administration has been paying lawyers to fight our right to unionize.
So what do we do now?
We show them: we’re not going anywhere until we get our union, with better wages and conditions.
The first step is making our labor visible. They say we’re not workers: let’s show them the work that we do! We’re holding a work-in on the 27th and 28th of October, in the main foyer of the University Center, from from 10am to 8pm. We’ll have snacks, drinks, and signs so that everyone who comes through the front entrance will see the work that we do. If you are a Research Assistant or Grading Assistant, come down and do your work alongside your colleagues. If you’re a Teaching Assistant or a Teaching Fellow, hold your class on the steps! And if you’re a sympathizer, come down to show your support – we need to show the administration that the university community is behind us.
The National Labor Relation’s Board Regional Director has made a decision on our case to re-establish the legal right to collective bargaining for student workers at private universities. While our petition was dismissed, because of precedence set by the federal board in the 2004 Brown University decision, we remain optimistic that when we appeal this decision to the federal board they will find that we have the right to collective bargaining as student workers. Read the full decision here.
Legal briefs have been filed by our Union and the University with the NLRB regional director as of June 1. Based on evidence presented in the recent hearings, we argue that the NLRB should overturn the 2004 Brown decision and re-establish the legal right to collective bargaining for student workers at private universities in the US.
As we hurtle toward the end of the semester, and the country roils with grief and anger over more racist police murders, your minds are likely preoccupied with many things. Ours too — we just want to give a brief update about the state of your Union: Student Employees at the New School (SENS-UAW), as we continue our struggle for recognition by the administration.
As the first week of hearings at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is now over, we continue to be disappointed that the TNS Administration has not agreed to a voluntary process to respect our majority choice and recognize our Union, as happened at NYU in 2013. As the semester is running out, it is important that we keep up the pressure on their decision on this important issue!
In the NLRB hearings, both sides presented their opening statements, and the arguments are basically the following.Our SENS-UAW lawyers maintain that we are workers and as such have the right to collective bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This position challenges the NLRB ruling on Brown University in 2004, which says students at private universities are not workers covered by the NLRA. Our lawyers also represent Columbia student workers who are fighting for union recognition; the broad position is that Brown should be overturned, and that just as in many public universities, graduate student workers like us should have the right to organize unions and bargain together.
The lawyers representing the New School Administration argue that students doing teaching and research work are the beneficiaries of “financial aid” — not wages. They argue that the our jobs are the equivalent of the stipends and scholarships offered to students at universities with more money, and that we are not employees, therefore, have no right to organize and engage in collective bargaining.
We’re hoping that you can do one of three things to help.
If you haven’t already, talk to other students in your department about getting support from faculty. Although TNS Administration seems to be willing to keep paying expensive lawyers to stop us gaining recognition through the NLRB, we still hope that the administration will do the right thing and recognize us voluntarily, as the NYU administration did.
We need to show that we are workers, that our jobs are not just financial aid for teaching and research training. If you’d be willing to say so in a hearing at the NLRB, please get in touch with us ASAP at email@example.com.
We need stories about working at the New School to illustrate why we need a union and a collective agreement. Please share your thoughts and stories by using the comment box at this link. Your responses will be kept confidential unless you say otherwise, though we do ask you to please include your contact information so we can verify who you are and follow up with any questions.
A bargaining committee is a democratically elected group of workers who make contract demands on behalf of their union membership.
Six academic student workers (ASWs) were elected in September 2017 to represent the SENS-UAW membership and craft proposals based on their needs. Hundreds of ASWs have given their input through one-on-one conversations, open-air meetings, and our widely-circulated bargaining survey. Although our demands will develop during negotiations and with ongoing input and support from members, the responses so far have given us a clear idea of our members’ priorities.