News

Strike Announcement, 13 May 2018

Today, the Bargaining Committee sent out the following message to our members:

Dear SENS members,

After a phenomenal four day strike this week, we have engaged with members extensively over the last 36 hours to seek their input on the path forward. This engagement has included meetings, one on one conversations, an electronic straw poll and phone banks. We will also be having a further Organizing Committee meeting on Tuesday from 11-1 in the Social Justice Hub. Thank you to everyone who took the time to respond to us.

While we have been successful in shifting the administration from their initial economic proposal of April 12, the reality is we remain far apart in our understanding of what amounts to a fair contract for academic student workers. Accordingly, while we will certainly make ourselves known at graduation and through continued direct action, we will not continue the strike on Monday.

The university has still not recognized how important healthcare is, and continues to offer insufficient proposals on other economic matters. We believe that continuing the strike next week will not change this dynamic sufficiently to reach an agreement this semester.

We will be offering the University bargaining dates this week in good faith. More importantly we must plan and strategize on how to build on this powerful foundation of solidarity and strength in order to come back strong in the Fall prepared to negotiate at the bargaining table, raise our voices, strike our labor and disrupt the campus for a fair contract. We encourage everyone to come to Tuesday’s OC meeting, where we will discuss further actions.

Over the week of the strike we had incredible picket line captains leading chants until they had no voice, making sure people were fed, watered and sun screened, and keeping us all safe. We shamed The New School on the streets of New York City and on a national level, which will have lasting impact and is impetus for further disruption. Our voices have been heard even on the floor of the U.S. Senate. And we successfully engaged the broader New School community to educate them on the legitimacy and importance of our struggle. We also want to say how much we enjoyed the food prepared in the New School cafeteria this week, acknowledge those who cooked it, and express our hope that a way can be found to continue this radical experiment in the new academic year.

Mostly, we want to express a huge thank you to everyone who showed up to the picket line, who struck their work, and to the many faculty who rearranged their classes and helped make this strike such a success. When the call went out, it was answered, and answered loudly.

As Senator Bernie Sander said in his letter of 10 May 2018 to President Van Zandt, “It is critically important that colleges and universities recognize the significant contributions these workers make by supporting their right to form unions, engage in collective bargaining, and negotiate contracts that provide essential benefits like health care.” We have been incredibly inspired by the energy, enthusiasm and solidarity we have seen on the picket line. We remain immovably committed: we will not let this administration perpetuate a status quo built on the exploitation of precarious student labor.

We know our worth. We know our strength. And we are not done.

In solidarity,
SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee

We corrected President Van Zandt’s message to the community

President Van Zandt and Provost Tim Marshall wrote a misleading message to our community regarding the state of our contract negotiations. See our revisions below.

Subject: We corrected DVZ’s message to the community

20 April 2018

To The New School Community,

SENS-UAW was pleased to read the recent update from the President and Provost on the progress of achieving a collective bargaining agreement for Academic Student Workers (ASWs) at the New School. Unfortunately, that update omitted many important details and misrepresented others. Lest the community be left with a mistaken impression, we address these issues below.

We want to update you on progress toward a first collective bargaining agreement with SENS-UAW, the union representing approximately 850 student workers at The New School. These include Teaching Assistants, Teaching Fellows, Research Assistants, Course Assistants and Tutors.

This is correct! Contrary to the subject line of the President’s email, however, (“Graduate Student Union Contract Update”), many of these students are undergraduates – SENS-UAW represents all students employed in an academic role on campus, not just graduate students.

You can learn more about this unit and the university’s long-standing partnerships with eight other labor unions on campus here.

You can learn about the university’s plans to fire its unionized cafeteria workers here.

The New School began contract negotiations with SENS-UAW in September, shortly after the union was certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

This fails to mention that certification in September came only after the university administration lost its appeal to the full Federal Board of the NLRB in Washington D.C., trying to overturn the decision of the NLRB Regional Director that recognized our right to unionize. The full, expensive, unnecessary, unsuccessful tale of the New School’s legal efforts to fight our union, dating back to 2014, can be found on the NLRB’s website, here.

Since that time, representatives from the university have been regularly meeting with their counterparts from SENS-UAW. Progress to-date has been well ahead of what has been the case in many other negotiations. NYU, the only other private university with a graduate student union contract in place, took more than 18 months to finalize an agreement.

In point of fact, NYU’s contract was settled in around half the number of negotiating sessions that we have had so far. Moreover, after fighting for over four years for our union, SENS-UAW is committed to securing a contract this semester that will take effect in Fall 2018. We are deeply concerned that the administration does not share this commitment. To take only the most recent example, the administration insisted it needed more than four months to draft a response to our economic demands. That response, when we finally received it, was half a page long.

Working together, union representatives and New School staff have been able to reach consensus on a number of areas and are working hard to address other important concerns to our academic student workers, such as the need to ensure on-time wage payments in addition to enhanced wages and other benefits.

We welcome this acknowledgment from the administration that student employees need to be paid on time, and that this contract is necessary to ensure that. We find it a pretty stunning admission – in light of the administration’s previous insistence that such a contract was unnecessary – but a welcome and accurate one.

Negotiating a collective bargaining agreement is a complex process. This is especially true in the case of a first-time agreement, and even more so in the relatively uncharted territory of a unionized workforce made up of students at a private university. There are major considerations and decisions involved that need to be thought through carefully from a range of perspectives as they will impact other parts of the University community as well as generations of students to come. We take this responsibility very seriously.

We agree that these are complex and important issues. We remain, as always, enthusiastically available to explain them to the administration. We have reached consensus on many issues, but continue to encounter frustrating delays from the administration on key matters. We look forward to closing the remaining gaps between parties’ positions and concluding the contract before the end of the semester.

We remain committed to the process of negotiation and are working with the goal of creating a strong, fair, and successful contract. We will to hold true to these values regardless of what other universities may choose to do or the shifting composition of the NLRB.

Duly noted.

In the current phase of negotiations, you may notice posters or various public demonstrations around our campus. These expressions by SENS-UAW focus attention on the process we are engaged in and promote specific union demands. We respect the union’s right to be visible and vocal and acknowledge that SENS-UAW has respected campus guidelines that are in place to ensure that teaching, learning and services to faculty and students are always our most important priority.

We respect the university’s right to be “visible and vocal” in promoting itself as an institution that lives up to the progressive values upon which it was founded. We think it’s false advertising if it doesn’t pay student workers a living wage.

We firmly believe that both sides in this negotiation process share a sense of responsibility to the academic mission of The New School and to all students who choose to pursue their education here.

We firmly believe in the academic mission of The New School too. It’s why we’re here. It’s why we work as hard as we do. But we are tired of seeing friends and colleagues exhausted, some to the point of dropping out, by the chronic undervaluing of our labor. If this university can afford to spend $50,411,000 (in 2016) on “Institutional Support”, it can afford to provide decent wages and benefits to academic student workers – those of us actually teaching classes, grading papers, and undertaking research. We recognize what we contribute to the academic mission of this institution. The administration, as yet, does not.

We look forward to continued progress on a new contract.

Great. Give us a real economic proposal.

Meet the New Bargaining Committee Candidates!

Election to Fill Two Bargaining Committee Vacancies

An election for the SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee vacancies (2 positions) will take place on February 1st, 2018.

Time: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Location: Levinson Lower Lobby, Lower Level, 6 East 16th Street, Manhattan

The following four individuals have accepted their nominations for the bargaining committee. Each candidate has also submitted a candidate statement.

Raven Hetzler, Economics, NSSR
I have been an active organizer for the union since I came to The New School in 2016. Because of this work I am very familiar with the issues we are bargaining over and I know how to pressure the administration to help us win, and I will use this knowledge to advocate on behalf of academic student workers as a member of the bargaining committee. The bargaining process has now reached the big-ticket economic issues – wages, health care, fee waivers, and other benefits – and I will fight tooth and nail to win the best possible contract for student workers, including better pay and good healthcare benefits.

John Milne, Lang
As an undergraduate Student Fellow in the BA/MA program, I have a vested interest in a cooperative, principled and productive relationship between The New School and its student workers. I am an Economics and Politics double major, Capitalism Studies minor and am pursuing a MA in Comparative Politics. I currently am a Teacher Assistant and Chapter Director for the Civic Liberal Arts course Becoming Generation Citizen, where I work with and act as a liaison between the Director of the Undergraduate Politics Department Deva Woodly, Program Associates from the non-profit organization Generation Citizen and New School students. Having worked on city council, senatorial and presidential campaigns I have experience organizing that will be valuable in our struggle against the intersections of the corporatization of higher education and deunionization.

Louisa Strothman, Lang
I want to accept my nomination to the SENS-UAW Local 7902 Bargaining Committee. I have held two research assistant positions over the three years I have been at Lang, while pursuing a BA in sociology, Spring 2018 being my last semester. I got involved with the SENS-UAW organizing Spring 2017, while the union was getting permission to form by NLRB, and since participated in the work-in in Fall 2018, and kept up to date on bargaining. As a student I have taken part in meetings with administrators to improve the conditions for students at TNS, often met without any visible change. Outside TNS, I have been actively advocating raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York, including attending meetings at the state house and many political actions. The law passed in April 2017, and we are still working to make sure the new laws are carried out. The bargaining committee is in a position, backed by the union membership to make necessary demands that will bring student workers closer to living wages and rights. I understand the gravity of listening to student workers about the most pressing needs and critically considering what support is necessary to make sure our contract enables employees’ access to their rights. It is my mission if elected as a member to this committee to serve as part of the ongoing push for greater budget transparency and dispersing New School funds back to students and faculty.

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 previously as an RA, am currently a TF.


Voting in the election shall be at large and shall not be restricted by jurisdiction.

Voters, regardless of department, shall be entitled to vote for up to two [2] 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.

See you at the polls!

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

THE NEW SCHOOL IS INTERFERING WITH OUR ELECTION!

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.

THE ELECTION IS STILL GOING AHEAD! PLEDGE TO VOTE YES FOR SENS-UAW

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.

Request-for-Review-of-DDE

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.

CLICK HERE TO PLEDGE TO VOTE YES FOR SENS-UAW

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 sensuaw@gmail.com 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!