Archive: Pre-Contract Blog

Bargaining Session 8 | November 10, 2023

Our first session open to the community highlighted many of the persistent issues that have plagued the bargaining processes. As usual, we came with substantive proposals intended to move bargaining forward. The University, in what is becoming an unfortunate pattern, responded by listing every proposal we haven’t countered on, most of which are of little to no concern to our members (e.g. punctuation changes in the preamble of our contract, an article pertaining to our right to use bulletin boards) followed by counter proposals on low priority articles that pair minor movement with poison-pills. For example, the University made minor movement towards the Union’s position on meeting space while simultaneously attempting to exclude the meeting space article from grievability, which would leave us with nothing but unenforceable promises. 

We opened the session by offering a compromise deal: in exchange for an $11,000/year cut to our proposed Union Leave pool, we asked that the University 1) stop attacking our capacity to organize under the pretense of  spurious FERPA concerns that have never once been raised by students and 2) stop attacking our right to third party arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination. We also delivered a letter bringing our position on anti-Bullying closer to the University’s position by accepting their policy language on the issue and asking only that this language be contractualized and backed up by the same enforcement procedures we rely on for all other contractual disputes. Following this, we spent most of the session in futile attempts to get straight answers from the University about their vague invocations of legal compliance issues related to FERPA and Title IX. No clarity was attained.

The University concluded with a push for more frequent and longer bargaining sessions. We would love to wrap up this process as soon as possible, but the University has yet to demonstrate that we can trust that they will use bargaining time productively. We are tired of discussing trivialities, our members’ real and pressing needs can’t wait.

Bargaining Session 7 | October 27, 2023

We brought four new proposals, dealing with compensation, international student issues, job security, and expense reimbursement. We are extremely proud of these articles that, if adopted, would significantly improve living, working, and studying conditions for our members! Read about them below.

Both the Union and the University have finally signed ground-rules that allow for full University remote attendance at bargaining. Starting at our next session, everyone at TNS can observe bargaining.

We brought counter offers to two responses the University had given on prior proposals dealing with the space provided to the union for our business and ASWs rights to protect themselves and their students in cases of dangerous weather.

The University countered the compromise we offered at the last session with an offensively poor offer that continues to deny ASWs the protection of third party arbitration in cases of discrimination and harassment. On their offer, ASWs who are themselves accused of discrimination and harassment and are punished will retain the right to grieve the legitimacy of their punishment. Our primary concern is with the discrimination and harassment we face and we maintain the position that the only real protection we have as workers derives from our contract, which must continue to recognize our right to a  third-party arbitration process not controlled by TNS. It is shocking that TNS continues to push a discredited position on this issue that peer institutions, with no public commitments to social justice, have distanced themselves from in shame.

Illustrating the connected issues behind our Anti-Bullying proposal and stance on discrimination and harassment protections, a member gave testimony regarding a bullying case that was egregiously mishandled by the same University offices the University claims can better protect our members against discrimination and harassment than the third-party arbitration process.

The University countered our proposal on Bargaining Unit Information, the article that governs what information the university is required to provide to the union so that we can identify and contact our members, with a destructive proposed article that would require each individual ASW to sign a privacy waiver before the University shares basic employment information with the union. This is transparently designed to weaken our capacity to advocate for our members and is an egregious attack on workplace democracy.



On our proposal, ASWs would receive an immediate 40% raise across all categories, retroactively applied for the 2023-24 academic year. This would be followed by 13.5% raises over the next two years. On our proposal Course Assistants, the lowest paid workers in the unit, will be immediately brought up to the same hourly wage rate as tutors, and their job descriptions have been clarified so as to exclude grading, which we understand to be work done by TAs, not CAs.

For ASWs tasked with course development, we proposed a $2000 course development fee, designed to compensate for the many hours of work we do before the first pay period of a semester in which we are teaching a newly designed or revised course. This is comparable to the course development compensation won by PTF in their recent contract and reflects the estimated 30-60 hours of work that goes into developing a high quality new course.

On our proposal, ASWs who receive fellowships or scholarships cannot have their wages deducted from these scholarships, but must be paid directly on top of their scholarships. This is designed to remove the poisonous incentives that lead the students who already receive the most support to be given the most highly compensated and competitive positions at the expense of students without support who need those jobs. It’s a win-win – ASWs on fellowships take home their entire fellowship and any wage they earn and ASWs without stand a better chance of being hired into TF and TA positions.

Those raise percentages sound high, but that’s because our current wage rates as so incredibly low. Under our current contract, ASW’s who hold 1 TA and 1 TF position over the spring and fall semesters – maximum employment for international ASWs in the highest paid positions possible – only earn $23,184 in a year. That is less than half of the 2023 NYC living wage of $53,342. Even by the end of our proposed contract, we still won’t be earning a living wage, but we will have at least caught up with our peers at CUNY and Columbia (sorry NYU still blows us out of the water, even on our proposal) and those who work maximum hours will take home at least 70% of projected 2026 living wage. 

Our members know very well that NONE of us earn enough to meet the minimum 40x monthly rent requirement expected by landlords on ANY apartments within the NYC area, whether we are looking at one bedroom, two bedroom, or three bedroom apartments shared by ASWs. We need a compensation package that actually allows us to live in the city we work in. Without major wage increases it is unclear how TNS can expect to continue staffing SENS jobs given that no SENS workers can afford to live in commuting range. 

International and Non-Citizen Worker Rights and Sanctuary Campus Rights

We proposed several new protections for international and non-citizen ASWs including:

  • Restrictions on ICE, DHS, and other governmental agencies access to campus and to information about students.
  • Reimbursement for any expenses accrued by international students due to errors or delays made by Internal Student and Scholar Services.
  • That the University serve as an institutional residential lease guarantor for up to 100 international ASWs who cannot otherwise secure housing in the NYC area.
  • The creation of a legal and accounting assistance fund designed to help international and non-citizen ASWs navigate immigration law and taxes in the U.S.

Appointments, Reappointments, and Protected Activities

We proposed a new article that responds to member concerns about job security, precarity, and the uncertainty of re-employment. Our proposal is nuanced and balances the interests of currently working ASWs with those of new members. It establishes a shared understanding that appointments that last at least two semesters are in the mutual interest of both ASWs and the University. It also offers academic freedom and freedom of expression protections for ASWs seeking re-appointment.

Expense Reimbursement

On our proposal, if the University fails to provide job-related materials, ASWs can purchase up to $20 of these materials without prior approval and can seek reimbursement through MyDay. No more teacher-bought markers! 

Bargaining Session 6 | October 13, 2023

We brought five new proposals today, all dealing with issues related to supporting student-workers as whole people. We delivered an opening statement illustrating the links between our well-being proposals and our success as teachers, researchers, students, and community members. 

Members with children delivered testimonies speaking to the lack of support at The New School for parents and other caregivers and the need for a new holistic vision of what it means to be a student and student worker at the New School.

We proposed a major compromise with the University, offering to retract paragraph A of our No-Strike/No-Lockout proposal if the University agrees to drop their attack on our rights to third-party arbitration in cases of grievance and harassment and agrees to our anti-bullying article. We are serious about reaching an agreement as soon as possible.

The University brought only a single counter-offer to our proposal on ASW rights and responsibilities, rejecting our proposal to allow ASWs to transition classes online in cases of government recognized dangerous weather. This on a day in which we tried to communicate to the University how pervasive feelings of neglect for our wellbeing are amongst students and academic student workers.

The University responded to our request for justification for their stance on third-party grievance and arbitration by denying that the stance they publicly communicated by email and social media was in fact their bargaining stance. This is dishonest and is nothing more than a legalistic means to hide the fact that they know that there is in fact no legal justification to back up their social media claims that our current CBA conflicts with Department of Education Title IX rules. How can the University expect anyone in the community to trust them when their public communications do not match their official bargaining positions?



Members who are parents delivered moving testimony on the challenges faced by academic student workers with childcare responsibilities. We proposed that the University establish a $90,00 fund set aside for childcare expenses that can be accessed by ASWs at a rate of $5,000 per semester.

Paid Safe and Sick Time Off, Paid Family Leave and Other Leaves of Absence

We presented an expanded comprehensive counter-offer on leaves of absence that extends the available paid time off and leave periods, increases eligibility for paid time off and leaves of absence for our members, expands the range of situations for which paid leave is available. Up to this point, the New School has offered the bare minimum legal leave policy, which has severe consequences for our members and their families.

Employee Discounts and Commuter Benefits

We proposed that the University 1) cover unlimited monthly MetroCards for our members in recognition of our commuting expenses, and 2) establish a Section 125 Commuter Pre-Tax plan, at no cost to the University, that would allow our members to elect to pre-tax deduct commuting expenses (such as CitiBike, PATH, LIRR, and other transit expenses).

Reproductive and Gender Affirming Care

The University recently promised to provide free access to medical abortion in addition to several other sexual and reproductive health. Our proposal enshrines this promise in our contract. Further, we have proposed that the University commit to covering gender affirming and reproductive care expenses for student workers if, due to political attacks on gender and sexual rights, these services are no longer covered by insurance.

Mental Health and Counseling Access

We proposed a new article on Mental health in consultation with our friends at SHS. On our proposal ASWs will have access to 12 (this is a return to past policy before sessions were cut to 10), in person psychodynamic, counseling sessions with SHS counselors during any academic year, and in some cases an additional 5 sessions. We want to make sure that members have access to real, in-person, care – not app or chatbot based substitutes.

Read the full proposals here.

Bargaining Session 5 | September 22, 2023

On Friday afternoon we met with the University for our fifth bargaining session. The union proposed three articles and two Memorandums of Understandings in relation to proposals the University has made. The University provided counter offers on Intellectual Property and Meeting Spaces. Read on for summaries of our proposals, or you can read the full proposals here.


Article XXII: Health Care

We proposed 100% of student health insurance premiums be covered by the University for all academic student workers during semesters in which they are working. We also proposed dependents be covered at the same rate for eligible student workers, and introduce a new Health and Welfare Fund to be jointly administered by the Union and the University, which will cover certain benefits such as dental and vision care that are currently excluded from the student health insurance offered by the University.

Article XXIII: University Services Fee

We proposed turning the university services fee rebate into a waiver and making it available to ALL academic student workers during semesters in which they are working.

New Article on Professional Development

We proposed the creation of a Professional Development Fund of $50,000 divided evenly between fall and spring semester, similar to the fund just won by part-time faculty.

Continuing Discussion on Discrimination and Harassment

We extensively debated and rebutted the University’s unsubstantiated legal assertions that changes to Title IX during the Trump Administration requires that we eliminate our right to neutral adjudication by an impartial arbitrator in instances of workplace harassment and discrimination. 

Towards this ongoing dispute members should be aware of the following sequence of events and facts:  

  • At our first bargaining session in July—when the University first revealed this proposal—we requested more information and clarification about their legal reasoning. Two months on, they have provided just one citation with no context or explanation: a controversial rule championed by former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, announced back in May 2020.
  • This 2020 Title IX change does not speak directly to collective bargaining agreements. And why would it? Its goal was to standardize procedures in Title IX cases where one person accuses another of misconduct and both parties engage in an individualized, “trial”-like process. 
  • Our CBA currently allows for our union and the University to go to arbitration, where a neutral third-party determines whether the CBA’s terms have been violated – not Title IX as a law itself. This provision of our contract never displaced University policies towards Title IX, nor does it conflict with them. 

We have taken the University’s claims seriously and repeatedly asked for clarification. However, their responses do not indicate sincerity to engage with union in good faith negotiations over this matter: 

  • Beyond vague replies to our questions, on Friday they couldn’t tell us when the University became aware of this 2020 rule change or when they began updating policies. It is apparently both a vital legal mandate and forgettable.
  • They could not tell us why—if they earnestly thought they had to remove our protections from the next CBA—the University didn’t raise this concern until July 2023 – over three years after the rule changed. This is concerning since, under our just-expired contract, the University was required to do so. 
  • And, finally, the University offered no justification for eliminating the entire arbitration provision in their opening proposal, rather than just carving out an exception for Title IX-related concerns: Title IX addresses sex-based discrimination and harassment. But our existing protections encompass much more than sex-based discrimination and harassment – so, why make all other claims impossible? We received no answer.

These protections were hard-won in 2018 and remain vital for protecting members of our community from discrimination. The University has proposed eliminating these protections and cannot be bothered to give us a reasoned justification, which leads us to believe they may just want to be able to cover up and conceal instances of discrimination by having complete control over the process .

University Counters

The University also presented a counter to our Meeting Space proposal which ignored the procedural changes to reserving rooms and hosting guests that the Union had proposed.

Instead, they offered the union the opportunity to book one additional meeting per year, beginning in 2024, and introduce another grievance & arbitration waiver, essentially nullifying the entire article as we would have no means of enforcement. 

As an addendum to our Meeting Space proposal, we proposed a union office in the Social Justice Hub, a space that was originally designed as one of the only spaces that students could book for meetings and events, and where SENS met regularly in the early days. Today, many students don’t know the Social Justice Hub exists, with one whole office wasted as a storage space, overflowing with boxes. In response to our interest in housing a union office here instead, the University informed us that they have hired ANOTHER highly paid Associate Provost who will “talk to students for a full year” before figuring out what to do with the currently unused Social Justice Hub.

Bargaining Session 4 | September 11, 2023

There is a lot to share after yesterday’s eventful bargaining session. Here are some of the headlines:

Zoom Compromise

The University has agreed to our proposed compromise on remote bargaining attendance, so pending a written agreement we should begin live-streaming all future bargaining sessions on a rotating basis beginning. These are open to all members of the TNS community and will require sign-in with a TNS email address. (Click this link for a timeline of what it took to reach a basic agreement on bargaining transparency that sets the record straight). 

New Proposals

We presented four new proposals at bargaining this morning. Most important for members is a proposal on one of our top priority issues: tuition waiver benefits for our working members! You can find the full proposals here and read more about them below.

Discrimination and Harassment Discussion

We questioned the university about provisions in two articles of their contract proposal – Disability Rights and Access and Discrimination and Harassment – that reduce our members rights by excluding disputes over discrimination and harassment from the third party mediated grievance and binding arbitration process. 

The University acknowledged in our first bargaining session that they are indeed proposing to take existing rights away from our members, but claimed they had no choice in order to comply with a Department of Education Title IX rule order of May 2020. They echoed this position on their Instagram page. However, they have so far failed to provide any evidence of case law or even a legal interpretation of the May 2020 rule that would explain why they believe it requires them to remove our rights to third party arbitration. If they did truly perceive such a conflict, they would have been contractually required to alert us in 2020 as our previous contract includes third-party arbitration. Further, just last year, well after the 2020 rule was in effect, our siblings at NYU GSOC and throughout the University of California System signed new contracts that provide for third party arbitration in cases of discrimination and harassment. If this wasn’t a conflict for NYU or the UC system, why would it be a conflict for TNS? We hope the University will provide us with the information that we need to develop a comprehensive counter-proposal on these issues that protects our members.

NewSWU Neutrality

Members of the NWSU organizing committee joined our meeting to deliver a formal request for neutrality to the University. This is an opportunity for the University to do the right thing and agree to allow NSWU workers to democratically decide whether or not they wish to join SENS. So far, the University has instead chosen to drag NSWU workers through a lengthy NLRB hearing process where they have fought to exclude as many workers as possible from the new bargaining unit. During these hearings the University referred to NSWU workers as “the lowest form of employees” at the New School, an egregious insult directed at a group of workers without whom there would be no New School. It would go a long way towards restoring trust on campus for the University to agree to drop their aggressive stance, agree to neutrality and let our NSWU colleagues join us.

University Confusion

The University did not bring any proposals or counter-proposals to this session. Instead, they had prepared a set of questions regarding our previous proposals, most of which had already been answered by the Union. Curiously, the University requested our help in identifying ‘holes’ in their own internal operations that have led to numerous SENS members working without pay as the University has failed to onboard them in a timely manner. If there are ‘holes’ to be found we suspect they were dug when the University decided to fire over 120 crucial staff members in 2020 against the protests of staff, faculty, and students, who have since had to bear the burden of understaffing.

In response to our concerns about potential wage theft and untimely pay, the University demeaningly referred to the wage labor we do for the University as “funding opportunities that some of your members depend on.” That’s what they think of our lives and livelihoods.  

Information Request Issues

The University still has not delivered 1) urgently needed information regarding our membership in a useable format (they sent us an 800 page PDF document of crucial Excel spreadsheets that were re-formatted to PDF, rendering them useless for quantitative analysis) and 2) information regarding our currently employed membership that they were contractually required to deliver by August 1. We are well into the semester and still don’t have a list of our currently working members. The University claimed, on unclear grounds, that while they could deliver this information by August 1 in every previous year of our contract, they could not this year. Why not?

Read on to learn more about the proposals we brought to the table!


Tuition Waiver: We proposed a new article that would include SENS members in the University’s existing employee tuition waiver program. On our proposal, working SENS members will be eligible for automatically applied tuition waivers for any courses they are enrolled in within their program of study, including non-credit courses like ‘maintaining status.’ Their dependents would be eligible to take up to two courses per semester, as is the case for dependents of most other employees at TNS. 

Anti-Bullying: We proposed a new Anti-Bullying article that clearly defines supervisorial bullying, ensures that members who have been bullied or abused by a supervisor can seek justice through the grievance and arbitration process and establishes an additional confidential mechanism through which ASWs can report bullying or abusive supervisorial behavior. 

Management Rights: We’ve proposed some changes to Article X, which covers Management Rights. We have removed a sentence authorizing the University to subcontract out our jobs. We also specified that academic employees (full-time faculty, part-time faculty, Academic Deans, and ASWs), in accordance with the established norms of academic integrity, should be those with the authority to make decisions regarding who is taught, what is taught, how it is taught, who does the teaching, as well as which research methodologies/standards are employed in research based work.

Academic Student Workers’ Rights and Responsibilities: We proposed an update to Article XI on ASW’s rights and responsibilities that grants ASWs the right to transition their in-person courses to an online modality in cases of inclement weather recognized by government agencies. As climate change renders dangerous weather increasingly common in NYC, we think this is a common sense amendment that protects our members and TNS students.

Bargaining Session 3 | August 25, 2023

We are glad to report that bargaining today was much more productive than it has been over the past sessions. The reason for this is straightforward- the University’s external council, Akerman LLP lawyers, were not present at bargaining. 

In their absence, we were able to make significant movement towards a compromise agreement on how to safely and transparently manage remote bargaining attendance for all New School community members. The University recognized that it was in fact the Union that had initially proposed that New School Community members should be entitled to observe bargaining in the interests of transparency and that it was the University that had initially proposed restricting bargaining attendance to the two sides’ respective bargaining teams.

The BC presented four new proposals to the University (detailed below) building on the five proposals that we presented at our last bargaining session. We expect to continue presenting proposals at subsequent bargaining meetings. Unfortunately, the University has maintained that “[They] are not providing counter-responses without understanding the complete package and interests of the union,” effectively leaving our proposals lying cold without substantive response. 

Access to information about our membership is crucial to our ability both to bargain in the interest of all of our members, and to enforce our current and any future contract (see below for information on contract expiration). We had an extensive conversation regarding the relationship between our previous information request and our Bargaining Unit Information article proposal. The University acknowledged that providing their (incomplete) information request response in the form of an 800 page PDF format document converted from Excel spreadsheets was unproductive. However, they continue to misunderstand their responsibilities to provide bargaining and employment relevant information to the recognized representative of Academic Student Workers – our union. Unfortunately, we had to file a grievance as the University has still not provided basic information about who and how many SENS members are employed in the coming semester, something they were contractually required to share by August 1st.

More information about the proposals we brought to bargaining today and about the potential consequences of our contract expiration can be found below.

The BC presented four new articles at this bargaining session. View them in their entirety here or read on for a summary.

  1. Article 12 – Hiring and Onboarding: Our proposal responds to a number of persistent issues raised by members:
    1. In recognition of the costs associated with beginning a new semester after a summer without pay, our proposal ensures that all ASWs are awarded $800 in advance pay before the semester begins. This advance pay will increase by $100 in each subsequent year of the new contract. In cases when an ASW is expected to earn less than $800 over the course of the semester, they will instead be advanced their total expected pay.
    2. Setting the first payment (after the advance payment described above) for workers on stipends and hourly workers at 14 days from the beginning of work rather than the current 28 days
    3. Establishing a late payment penalty fee awarded to ASWs in cases when ASWs pay is delayed through no fault of the ASW
  1. Article 17 – Intellectual Property Rights: Our proposal brings us up to the new industry standard set by Harvard University by ensuring that the University post and maintain a ‘plain language’ summary, legible to non-lawyers, of all intellectual property policies on its website and that it updates all workers to any changes in intellectual property policy.
  1. Article 18 – Space and Equipment: Our proposal on space and equipment includes four new provisions designed to facilitate our work:
    1. We have proposed a $100 materials stipend for Teaching Fellows tasked with creating a new course or updating an existing course for the purpose of purchasing books or other course materials to review. 
    2. We have also requested that all ASWs who work in the 6 East 16th Building be provided with key cards (the same that Full Time Faculty and Staff receive) to access the elevators located at 79 5th Avenue so that ASWs can avoid long elevator lines. 
    3. In recognition of the fact that ASWs are often tasked with signing guests into University buildings for events, we have proposed that ASWs should be allowed to sign in 8 guests at a time, rather than 2.
    4.  Finally, have also requested that the University consider extending building hours for ASWs to whatever extent is feasible. 
  1. Article 20 – Timeliness of Pay: On our new proposal:
    1. If an ASW is paid late and incurs university late fees (e.g. tuition or fees late payment penalties) due to not having been paid on time, the ASW can submit a claim of late payment and waive any fees they have incurred from the universities.
    2. If an ASW is not paid on time or is paid late, they can submit a claim of late payment. If the University does not process payment within 5 business days (for pay cards) or 10 business days (for direct deposits) from the date of the request, then they will be required to award the ASW with a late fee of 15% pre-tax daily pay for each day after the 5 or 10 business day period.

One last piece of big news for our members. Our contract is expiring on August 31st. What does this mean?

Not much! Day to day, very little (if anything) will change, and bargaining will continue. When working “out of contract,” both our union and the university have an obligation to maintain “status quo” (a.k.a working conditions as outlined in the previous contract.) The only contract articles that fall into suspension are the No Strike/No Lockout clause, and grievance arbitration provisions. This means that once the contract has expired, we regain our right to strike and take other forms of concerted action. However, we cannot strike unless the membership takes a strike authorization vote. We currently have no plans to call for a strike authorization vote. Should that change, the BC will be in contact with membership and we will host a deliberative and participatory process to discuss whether or not our union should strike. 

Our next scheduled bargaining session is on Sept. 11. We’d especially love for members to attend this session, either in person or remotely. To RSVP to attend, contact 

Want to get more involved with SENS organizing? Fill out this form!

Bargaining Session 2 | August 6, 2023

On Monday, August 7th, the SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee (BC) had our second meeting with the University. We continued discussions of ground rules for bargaining, presented our first set of proposals to The New School, and reached a tentative agreement on Article XIII, on Personnel Files.

The session opened with a bizarre conflict over the University’s previous offer to open bargaining to the New School Community. We requested that a standard Zoom link be shared that would allow members of the community to join, see and be seen, and chat with each other. The University, apparently intimidated by the prospect of seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those they are bargaining against, insisted that any conferencing link be controlled by them and shared in the view-only webinar format. We spent two hours discussing this point with the university’s team (racking up nearly $2500 in billable hours for Akerman LLP), all the while, our remote BC members were stranded in a Zoom waiting room. They were never allowed in. 

To be clear, the BC adamantly rejects The New School having unilateral control over the remote bargaining process. Today’s bargaining session was held without the members of our elected BC who needed to join remotely due to childcare responsibilities, disabilities that prevent them from traveling to campus, travel abroad, or unrelated work obligations. It was flagrantly disrespectful of the time and energy we put into negotiating a strong union contract for our members.

For the safety of our international members, we do not consent to the distribution of bargaining session recordings to the wider public. Public records of union activity put international students at risk of retaliation from their national governments.

SENS BC Proposals, August 7, 2023

The BC presented the following proposals as a sign that our union is negotiating in good faith, despite the university’s claims to the contrary. The university’s team made it clear today that even though our BC presented five distinct proposals, they do not intend respond until they have received our full package. This will inevitably delay the bargaining process.

Read the full proposals our BC presented here. Summaries of each are provided below.

Article II: Bargaining Unit Information

Our organizers depend on the University for information about our membership – who they are, how we can reach them, and what jobs they hold. Currently, the University gives us inaccurate, incomplete, and late member lists. We are proposing that the University catch up to the industry standard set by Harvard University so we can operate our union effectively and best support our members.

Article VI: Meeting Space

In order to best facilitate rank and file democracy within our union, we are proposing that the union should be allowed to book space on campus in the same manner as all other campus organizations and departments, whenever we need to hold meetings too large to be hosted in the union’s office space.

Article XXV: Union Leave

Union Leave refers to the money that is set aside by the University to pay for the work that our elected unit chair and union representatives do enforcing our contract, handling grievances, organizing, and more. The current funding does not support the amount of hours our reps work each week. We are proposing that the union leave fund be increased from $52,500 to $81,000 with a 3% increase each year and that hours worked by all representatives count toward receipt of healthcare and any other work benefits.

Article XXVII: Discipline and Discharge

We propose adding a provision we’ve designed to protect international students on visas by requiring the University and Union to expedite any discipline related grievance process to ensure it is completed before the ASW experiences any negative visa/immigration consequences.

Article XXXI: No Strike, No Lockout

No Strike, No Lockout is a clause common to almost all post-war U.S. collective bargaining agreements. The clause represents an exchange between union and employer: during the life of a contract, the union gives up its right to strike and the employer gives up its right to lockout workers (refuse to allow workers to work and to hire scabs in their place)  for the right to make use of the grievance and arbitration procedure. 
Our current No Strike, No Lockout clause forces us to forfeit our right to refuse to cross legitimate picket lines in addition to forfeiting our right to strike over grievable workplace issues. Our proposal restricts the union’s concession – we will forfeit our right to strike only over issues that we receive the right to grieve in return, and we do not forfeit our right to refuse to cross pickets. This is key to preserving our union’s strength, protecting our members rights, and building solidarity amongst all workers across our campus.

Our BC is still finalizing future bargaining sessions with the university’s team. We hope our remote bargaining committee members, as well as our entire New School community, will be allowed to join.

Bargaining Session 1 | July 17 2023

On Monday, July 17th, the SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee (“BC” for short) met for the first time with the University to discuss ground rules for our bargaining process. At this meeting, both parties delivered opening statements and the University presented a full raft of contract proposals. 

Opening Statements

The University opened the session with prepared remarks delivered by Sonya Williams, Vice President for Human Resources. Throughout her statement, Williams claimed to respect academic student workers and our contributions to the university while simultaneously demonstrating a deep misunderstanding of our relationship to the university as wage laborers, referring to our jobs as “paid work opportunities.” The bargaining committee believes that emphasizing that the goal of graduate student employment is simply to further and “support academic goals” mischaracterizes and undermines our contribution to the university as workers and allows the university to undervalue our work monetarily.  

Williams concluded by communicating that the University would be pursuing a “unique” approach to bargaining by opening with a full set of contract proposals, presenting a unilaterally drafted complete contract as a generous favor to academic student workers rather than a tactical move developed in concert with a pre-written communications strategy. 

There is a juxtaposition between what the university is saying and doing. The university repeatedly insisted that unless the Union presents a complete contract proposal at the beginning of bargaining they will not be able to take our input into account in their proposals. This didn’t stop them from presenting a complete contract proposal developed without any input from student workers. The BC’s position remains that we will bargain in the traditional manner over individual articles to ensure that we can work through the issues in a genuine and considered manner.

Following Williams’ presentation, BC members Danielle Twiss, Zeshan Khalid, and Aaron Berman shared opening statements on behalf of themselves and student workers. These statements highlighted a number of our key bargaining priorities and called on the University to reconsider its commitment to aggressive union-busting bargaining, expensive external council and consultants, and austerity.

Ground Rules

The University had previously sent the BC their proposed ground rules, which included a number of provisions unacceptable to the committee, including a proposal to hold bargaining at a third party location at the shared expense of the University and Union and proposals designed to close bargaining and limit union democracy. Since there is no reason for our members’ dues to be spent on hotel conference rooms when The New School and UAW both have plenty of available meeting space for bargaining and there is no reason that our members should not be as involved in the bargaining process as they like, the BC presented a revised document without these provisions. The University is looking this over and will respond in the future. 

The University accused the BC of not cooperating by revising some of the ground rules proposed to us, including the need for flexible dates. The BC does not agree to the university’s proposal of having all-day bargaining sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The BC is committed to a bargaining process that democratic, transparent, and centered on census– in order to ensure we are remaining democratic, we need flexibility in our meetings to talk with rank-and-file student workers and make decisions. Additionally, union members are not paid to participate in bargaining, and many of us use the summer to do research, attend conferences, and work other paid jobs to finance our education. Members who are parents are unable to attend early morning and all day sessions. 

Contract Proposal

Although the BC has not yet had the time to conduct a full study of the University’s offer and, as of 3pm July 18th has not received a digital copy that it can share with you, the paper contract proposal the university provided on 7/17/23 contains several troubling proposals: 

  1. The University’s proposal would strip away student workers’ rights to real recourse against harassment and discrimination. The proposal removes SENS members’ right to pursue the grievance and arbitration process with an independent arbitrator for harassment casesinstead, forcing student workers to trust that claims of harassment will be better handled by adjudicators on the University’s own payroll. 
  2.  The University’s compensation proposal is far from the generous offer they have made it out to be. This is an offer that will keep Academic Student Workers who hold one TF and one TA position each semester (the maximum workload allowed by law for international students and by TNS policy for domestic students) earning under $30,000 per year by 2029. For reference, according to the MIT Living Wage Lab, New York City living wage for single adults without children in 2023 is $53,352. Poverty wages are not generous.
  3. Doubling down the union-busting style that backfired so magnificently for the University in Fall 2022, the new offer seeks to further curtail our unit’s right to stand in solidarity with other workers on campus.

We proposed to meet with the University again on August 7th. This gives the BC  time to review the contract proposal provided by the University, to meet and discuss with members, and democratically decide how to move forward and provide our own proposals. We retain our faith in the bargaining process and look forward to working with all members of the union and the University to create a meaningful contract that lifts our members out of poverty and reflects the value we bring to The New School. 

SENS Bargaining Opening Statement:

Danielle Twiss: We’d like to use the opportunity of our first bargaining meeting to communicate some of our motivations and hopes for the bargaining process. 

Over the past years, our community has been deeply affected by the University’s repeated choice to respond to a challenging economic environment in higher education with neoliberal austerity, squeezing the most vulnerable workers while continuing to provide costly executive raises for those already at the top of our extremely unequal payscale. It is our hope that the events of last year have made it clear that a course correction is necessary, morally, but also pragmatically. Pragmatically, austerity is ultimately always self-undermining, an institution that fights to survive by eating away at the living and working conditions of those who carry out its primary mission is unlikely to succeed on its own terms. Morally, academic Student Workers, no less than any other workers, deserve to be able to live a decent and dignified life in the city of their employment. 

Under our current conditions, this is simply impossible.The maximum amount that an international Academic Student Worker on an F-1 visa, who is barred from any employment other than at The New School –  can earn over the course of an academic year is $23,184, and the majority of Academic Student Workers, international and domestic, actually earn much less than this. Workers, again, who have no other available source of employment, are compelled by the New School to try to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world at less than half the living wage. 

The University’s budget is a moral document: The question is not whether TNS can afford to fairly compensate its employees, but whether doing so is the University’s priority. Indeed, if TNS can afford to pay its governing body a sum total of over 8 million dollars, it can afford to pay its student workers a living wage. 

Zeshan Khalid: My name is Zeshan. Two years ago, I had a “dream come true” moment when I received an acceptance letter to the MFA Design and Technology program at Parsons. Even though I had a 50% scholarship, the hard part began when I was in my second semester and the Pakistani currency crashed due to political and economic crisis. 

I had to pay my next semester’s fee, but my savings decreased by almost 100% due to the exchange rate. At that time, I couldn’t work outside of school because of immigration laws, and the 10-hour R.A. job at school couldn’t cover my $900 rent. I asked the school for help but received nothing from the Management even after writing personal emails. I felt devastated because I thought that as an international student, my classmates were my only family and my institution was like my parent.

I had 28 days to raise at least $7000 to stay in school which I did from Gofundme but that experience opened my eyes that my school doesn’t care about me or any international student who sacrifices everything to come here and fulfill their dreams. Even if you are lucky to have the highest-paid job as a student you will still live in fear and depression because the school will always treat you as a customer, not like a parent.

Aaron Berman: Many of our members have stories like Zeshan’s to tell. While our unit includes many international students, it also includes many parents and other adults with children and dependents. The annual income required for a single adult with just one child to support in NYC is $93,426. The disparity between what TNS pays, what tuition costs, and what is required to live should be staggering, and unacceptable, to all of us. 

On top of low wage rates, the majority of academic student workers are compelled to pay the New School for the privilege of continuing to work, whether in the form of tuition for which we receive no benefit as workers (and only rarely as students), or in the form of the ‘maintaining status fee’ that eats up $2,600 of our pay each academic year, more than one half of the total pre-tax compensation for a TA position.

Adding insult to injury, our previous contract secured only a partial premium rebate for health coverage for workers who participate in the University’s student plan as well as a 100% rebate for the University Services fee, but this rebate has typically been paid by the University six months after our members have advanced to the University as an interest free loan the full cost of the plan premiums and University fees. 

We care deeply about this university, its students and workers, its mission and its history. The current situation is scandalous and would be a source of shame for any institution, let alone one that prides itself on its progressive values. It is well within the means of TNS to rectify this.

We share this with you in the hopes that you will recognize why it is imperative for the New School to bargain with us as workers with serious and unmet needs, rather than attempting to mischaracterize us as unruly students with nothing at stake in these negotiations. We are prepared to work with the University to ensure that our needs are met through the bargaining process. Conflict is not inevitable, but is certain to arise if the University chooses to approach this bargaining process in the aggressive fashion that characterized our part time faculty colleague’s recent negotiations. The New School community at large, from students, parents and alumni, to faculty and staff have made it clear that solidarity is a value that we take seriously and attempts to drive division between us or to intimidate workers into accepting unlivable compensation will fail, just as they did last year.