2017 Year in Review

What exactly went down in 2017? Well, after nearly three years of organizing, this year we finally won our union! Here’s our end of year review, which highlights the immense organizing we’ve done, the allies we’ve made, and the fight ahead, one whose challenges we can certainly overcome — as we have those past — with solidarity and collective action.

SENS-UAW Year in Review 2017

Bargaining Committee Elections – Meet the Candidates

Bargaining Committee Elections – Meet the Candidates

SENS-UAW is electing its bargaining committee! This is the members’ chance to elect 6 representatives who will take their concerns to the negotiation table. The elections will be on Tuesday, September 19, from 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM, in the Levinson Lower Lobby, on the lower level of The New School’s 6 East 16th Street building.

Voting in the election will be at large and shall not be restricted by jurisdiction. Voters, regardless of department, shall be entitled to vote for up to six [6] candidates.

Eligible voters are any union supporters who have a signed a card. If you have not signed a union card previously, you may do so at the polls in order to vote. Ballots will be counted after the polls close in Levinson Lower Lobby.

Meet the Candidates

Michael Dobson, Politics, NSSR

I am seeking election to the SENS-UAW Local 7902 Bargaining Committee because of my belief that collective bargaining can deliver tangible and much-needed improvements to the lives of New School students, and because I am confident I have the experience necessary to be an effective negotiator for our student body. This experience includes two and a half years practicing as a lawyer at a large corporate law firm in New Zealand, and one year as a legal advisor to the Republic of the Marshall Islands leading up to, and at, the COP21 negotiations that created the Paris Climate Agreement. In these roles I was involved in complex, hard-fought negotiations, carried out both by exchange of correspondence and through formal and informal negotiations. I enjoy negotiating and would relish the opportunity to undertake it on behalf of current and future New School student employees. I would take my responsibilities as a negotiator very seriously, in particular the responsibility to proactively engage with the wider student employee body regarding the progression of negotiations and the major objectives to be achieved.

Originally from New Zealand, I left legal practice to come to the New School in 2012, determined to find a more socially impactful use of my critical faculties than a career in corporate law. I completed my MA in Politics at NSSR with Nancy Fraser, and am now pursuing a PhD in the same department. I have worked as an RA, am currently a TF, and will be a TA this Spring.

Katherine Fox, Lang

My name is Katherine Fox and I want to accept my nomination onto the SENS- UAW Fall 2017 bargaining committee. I have been involved in SENS-UAW since the organizing process last spring for the secret ballot we held in May. I believe the student workers deserve representation that is 1)actively trying to engage with students and keep them updated on the bargaining process and how being in a unit will affect their position, and their semester 2) dedicating to representing as many students as possible by looking critically at responses to the bargaining survey and 3)focused on creating a contract that suits the needs of current student workers, and only increases in understanding, representation, and just work environment as time spent in the Union increases. As a Lang student, I believe it’s important to have strong relationships with professors that hire student workers as well as knowing student workers in every department. I would make a great candidate for the bargaining committee because I have been involved for some time, I’m organized, great at working in groups, confident with public speaking/organizing skills and I believe unions make for stronger, more focused, happier work environments.

Mithra Lehn, Philosophy, NSSR

I have been a member of The New School community for 10 years and currently am a PhD student in Philosophy at the New School for Social Research. During this time I have been a student employee both as an undergraduate and a graduate student where I worked as a Research Assistant and Teaching Assistant at Eugene Lang College and NSSR. My experience in these positions has given me a robust understanding of the needs and challenges that student workers at the New School face. As a response to these concerns, I have been active in the many political struggles on campus by helping organize and participating in discussions, protests and occupations against tuition hikes and the lack of financial transparency. Last year I became actively involved the SENS Union campaign where I fought for our right to unionize and am very proud to have been a part of the large effort that won our union. If I receive the honor of serving as a member of the bargaining committee, I will work hard to hear all of the student employee’s concerns and will fight for the strongest contract that makes these demands a reality.

Lisa Lipscomb, Sociology, NSSR

My name is Lisa Lipscomb and I’m a PhD candidate in the Sociology department at NSSR. During my time at The New School, I have worked at Eugene Lang College as a Teaching Fellow, a TA, and a Grader, and at Parsons as a Research Assistant. I attended the first SENS-UAW organizing meeting in the spring of 2014, participated in work-ins, and actions including delivering letters directly to President Van Zandt’s office because I believe that student workers are legitimate employees who have the right to bargain over the conditions of their labor.

In March of this year, I began working closely with the SENS-UAW Organizing Committee. I helped get signatures for the Commit to Vote YES/Strike Authorization Vote then once we had our election date, I helped turn out a strong YES vote. During my time organizing, I have spoken with many current and aspiring academic student workers at NSSR, Parsons, NSPE, Lang, CPA, and Milano. We won our union with 502 YES votes to 2 NO votes because of the support across all New School departments and divisions and a desire for improvements to our workplace. My organizing work has taught me that TAs, RAs, TFs, SA3s, and Tutors have common concerns: they desire timely payment of wages, job security, and transparency about hiring practices. If elected to the bargaining committee, I will continue to listen to student workers about their priorities and fight for a strong first contact that benefits all academic student workers.

Mark Rafferty, Economics, NSSR

SENS-UAW is a young union with a fighting spirit. To get to where we are now, we’ve had to struggle against the administration’s obstruction for three years. Now that we’re at the bargaining table, I think we’ll need to keep struggling if we want to win tangible gains. At the New School, the lack of healthcare, transparent pay scales, and family leave/childcare policies have a negative impact on international students, women, students of color, and other marginalized student workers. I want SENS-UAW to lead the way in laying a material groundwork of policies at the school that can lift up the most marginalized of our ranks.

I’m currently an MA student in Economics working in a TA position. I’ve been a volunteer with SENS-UAW since the Fall of 2016, and I’ve also worked as a part-time UAW organizer in part of the spring semester as well as this semester. I’ve talked with hundreds of students across all five schools, and I understand many of the issues that student workers face across diverse departments.

As a member of the bargaining committee, I’ll bring the student workers’ demands—and energy—to the table. I’ll make it clear to the administration that they are bargaining not just with the committee, but with the entire rank and file body of student workers. Our experience has shown that the student workers of SENS-UAW don’t back down from a fight. And when we fight, we win!

Srishti Yadav, Economics, NSSR

I am a third semester PhD student at the Economics department and am currently an RA (hence I’m mad about the shockingly low pay). In the past year I served as a representative of the Economics Students’ Union, which has given me some experience in ‘bargaining’ with faculty on matters of student concern. I have also been part of the unionization effort at the New School and strongly support greater reach and size for our union. Previously, I studied at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, which has a history of vibrant student activism and of leading nationwide student movements. My years at JNU taught me the importance of student unity in the face of a tough administration and State.

Being an international student, the power divide between TNS administration and students is very stark to me. As international students we are almost at the mercy of the school for employment opportunities, and this places us in a weaker position – we take whatever we get. Effectively, this also allows the school to cut costs and employ students at relatively cheap labour. The lack of affordable healthcare and uncertain work hours, which compete with our academic obligations are other important issues that affect most students. If elected to the bargaining committee, I will persistently raise these and other concerns, as reflected in the bargaining surveys which are pertinent to the student body.

Daniel Younessi, Economics, NSSR

I am a current PhD student in economics; starting my third year at the New School in total. I have spent all that time as a supporter of and participant in SENS-UAW activities, having been involved particularly with communications, outreach and the vote drive. In addition I was an early participant in the unionization drive at the University of Connecticut (my first graduate institution). Although I graduated before the union at UConn was established, it nonetheless provided useful early experience in union organizing. I have also spent the last four years intimately involved with the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, a grassroots organization dedicated to fighting displacement, rent increases and targeting of migrants and ethnic minorities throughout Queens. In my capacity as an affiliate of the QAGP, I have organized several teach-ins, protests and marches and the grassroots level – organizing tenants, neighbors and locals, often of very diverse backgrounds. I believe that my experience as an organizer in a variety of settings (labor and tenant, academic and local) will allow me to be a useful addition to the bargaining team.

Don’t forget to vote!

Tuesday, September 19, 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM, Levinson Lower Lobby, Lower Level, 6 East 16th Street

The New School tries to downplay it’s anti-union legal battle

The good news…our election is only days away, Wednesday, May 3 & Thursday, May 4, and support and excitement is growing.  Our commitment to building a union is stronger than ever.  We are inspired by the accomplishments of our unionized colleagues at other universities and the part-time faculty here at The New School.
The not so good news…the administration continues to engage in legal machinations to obstruct our election.
Yesterday, President Van Zandt sent a message to the entire university community. The collegial tone of his message is at odds with the legal campaign the administration has waged against our union.  President Van Zandt says that the New School “look[s] forward to hosting the election.” Yet, for two and a half years, the administration has blocked our efforts to form our union.  We have won every legal fight, but enormous time, energy and valuable resources have been wasted.
In his message, President Van Zandt downplays the administration’s appeal, “The New School also has asked the NLRB to review one, limited aspect of its recent decision….” But in its legal filing the administration asks the NLRB to overturn the decision and disenfranchise voters.  In fact, the University argues on nearly every page of its brief that the majority of the student workers found eligible by the NLRB to vote in the election should be barred from participating in the union, saying “…there could be no finding that there is an expectation of recurring employment of Graduate Assistants at The New School, except for the few fully-funded students…”(page 10). The university has had months to make these arguments. It is a common approach that employers take to defeat unionization by their employees.
We are confident that when the ballots are counted we will have won by a significant margin, like our colleagues at Columbia and NYU.  Unfortunately, The New School has persuaded the NLRB to challenge the ballot of every voter on the eligibility list during the election.  This is unprecedented in the history of NLRB elections.  It appears that The New School will be known in corporate circles for having achieved a new way to fight unions – “The New School Challenge”.    This will be the labor relations legacy of President Van Zandt and his administration and will be a significant stain on The New School’s progressive history.
We will not be turned back.  We will honor The New School’s truly enlightened mission by voting UNION YES next week.
We look forward to celebrating when the election concludes next Thursday.  But once the polls close, let’s all commit to fighting for the ballots to be counted and for negotiations to commence in good faith.
In Solidarity,
SENS-UAW organizing committee


On April 22nd, The New School filed a Request for Review with the Regional Labor Board in an attempt to wage another legal battle against SENS-UAW and claim that we are not workers with the right to unionize. Instead of respecting the outcome of the election as we had hoped they would do, the university is wasting time and resources in costly legal battles to fight us.  We are outraged by this flagrant disregard for our democratic rights and violation of the social justice principles that The New School brands itself upon.


It is more important than ever that we show up and vote yes for SENS-UAW on May 3rd and 4th. A strong yes vote will show The New School that we will not be deterred from exercising our rights.


WE GOT ELECTION DATES! May 3&4 Vote Union Yes

It’s official! We get to vote for SENS-UAW as our union on May 3rd and 4th, 2017.


We have huge, exciting news! The regional National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) just announced the dates for our election on unionization for May 3rd and 4th.

This quick legal victory means we can transition from organizing for our strike authorization vote to organizing for our union election.  The foundation of strong union support for the strike authorization that was built over the last several weeks has resulted in an even deeper commitment to win our union vote.  So good news and even better news – the strike authorization vote is off and the union election is on!

When the majority of us vote yes, The New School will have a legal obligation to bargain with us. Like student employees at more than 60 university campuses across the US, we will gain the ability to negotiate for and secure improvements in a binding contract.

The NLRB election will take place on Wednesday, May 3rd and Thursday May 4th, from 10am-4pm in the Lower Level of 6 e16th Street. Further details to follow.

You can read the full NLRB decision here.

If you would like to get involved in helping get out the vote in your or other departments help win this historic election, please send us an email or fill out this form.

Legal Assistance for International Students and Workers

You may have seen the letter being circulated, which demands that President David Van Zandt, the administration, and University Board of Directors urgently address the calls for The New School to declare itself a Sanctuary Campus, and take concordant action.

Sanctuary demands are critical, but it has already been more than a week since the executive orders have created havoc for those who call, or hope to call, New York City and The New School, home.

Recognizing the imperative of action, the UAW is generously offering concrete support to those in our community affected by these new border restrictions.

Upon hearing that the New School has not made free legal counsel available to those affected or potentially affected by Trump’s executive orders and travel ban, Legal Services Staff Association (UAW 2320), have offered to serve in that capacity.

Students don’t need to be currently working to benefit from this counsel. If you need legal advice, or have unanswered questions, you may call Beth Baltimore, with the Legal Services Staff Association. Please email us at and we’ll pass on her phone number.

Our union — Student Employees at the New School (SENS-UAW) — has been fighting to be recognized by the New School Administration for more than two years. Throughout this battle SENS has been supported by the resources of the United Auto Workers — the labor union we (like academic workers at NYU, Columbia, and at schools all over the nation) chose to join.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to the UAW, to the Legal Services Staff Association, and especially to Beth Baltimore for the aid they have made available in this time of crisis.

Courage and solidarity together!

TNS stays the course; we will keep mobilizing!

On Monday this week President Van Zandt responded to the December 21 letter from SENS-UAW organizers committing to prepare for a strike authorization vote if the administration continued to stall and the NLRB refrained from taking action on our case. While we are encouraged by initial action from the NLRB soon after our letter, and Van Zandt’s responding directly to us for the first time as a union, he made it clear that the administration will continue refusing to agree to a fair voluntary recognition process and instead wait for a legal decision to be handed down by the regional NLRB. This response makes it clear that we will need to keep moving ahead on both tracks, preparing to win an NLRB election and simultaneously preparing for a possible strike if the NLRB doesn’t move quickly and the administration continues to refuse to agree to a reasonable voluntary agreement.

Keep your ears posted for our meeting for next week where we will continue planning for pushing forward this coming semester. Until we have an election date, we cannot rule out striking as an option to prevent more delays.

NLRB takes action on our case!

Great news! The National Labor Relations Board has just issued a decision on our unionization petition. They have remanded the case back to the regional NLRB to take “further appropriate action consistent with Columbia University,” referring to the August decision affirming the right to collective bargaining for RAs and TAs. Based on this action, we hope the regional NLRB will process our case efficiently so that we can have a unionization election sometime early in the spring semester.

You can read today’s full decision here. This is another huge win, for student employees at the New School and for graduate workers at private universities across the country. Congratulations to everyone who has worked so hard to get us this far!

Thanks to everyone who met, discussed, and signed onto our statement earlier this week to President Van Zandt. While today’s NLRB action is good news, we need to remain mobilized and ready to not just vote yes in a NLRB election, but also to continue pressuring the administration not to stall the NLRB process and to fight as we move forward for a strong union contract.

We will be in touch as soon as we know more about next steps, most likely after January 1. Happy holidays!

We will take action if necessary

We will take action if necessary

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..

Read the letter below and sign on here to show your support!