Archive: Pre-Contract Blog

Bargaining Committee Election Results

Congratulations to our newly elected bargaining committee members!

After our vote 9/6, with five spots filled, the full committee leading SENS-UAW in Fall 2018:

Angela Butel (Public and Urban Policy, Milano)

Zoe Carey (Sociology, NSSR)

Michael Dobson (Politics, NSSR)

Cagla Orpen (Politics, NSSR)

Kevin Rice (Psychology, NSSR)

Jonas Voigt (Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons)

Meet the new bargaining committee candidates!



An election for the SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee vacancies (5 positions) will take place on:

Election Date: September 6th, 2018

Voting Time and Location: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM, Room 528, 72 Fifth Ave,


Read about the nominated candidates below: 


Angela Butel, Public and Urban Policy, Milano

I am a second-year Master’s student in the Public and Urban Policy program at the Milano School. This Fall I am working on campus as both an RA at the Center for New York City Affairs and a TA for an introductory economics class.

I got involved in organizing with SENS-UAW last Spring in the lead-up to the strike, in which I was an active participant. I have attended Organizing Committee meetings throughout the summer, helping with the bargaining survey and with planning for getting a strong start to our organizing this Fall.

As a member of the bargaining committee, I would strive to be a voice at the table for the Milano School, which has faced particular challenges with things like lower pay rates and late pay. I would also draw on my experience as a Master’s student to speak to the particular challenges encountered by those of us who are only here at The New School for a couple of years.

I recognize that bargaining committee membership represents an important leadership role both in bargaining and when it comes to keeping the membership informed, engaged, and ready to act in support of the bargaining efforts. As a member of the committee, I would work hard both at the table and in our organizing to build our power so that we can win the strongest possible contract.


Zoe Carey, Sociology, NSSR

I’m a PhD student in Sociology working as a Teaching Fellow and Research Assistant, and I would like to serve as a bargaining committee member. I’ve been active with SENS-UAW since our initial card drive in fall 2014. I was present to file our petition at the NLRB, testified about our working conditions at the labor board hearings, and was active in the unionization vote in spring 2017 as well as our strike last May. As a long-time SENS organizer who has worked in several unit and non-unit positions in Lang, NSPE, Parsons, and NSSR, I hope to bring my institutional knowledge and experience of both the university and the union to the bargaining table to win us the strongest contract possible. Our union is only as strong as our members who are willing to fight, and I aim to do everything I can to make our union more inclusive, communicative, and responsive to member concerns.

The strike helped increase our visibility across the university, and I believe a diversity of communication tactics can build on this mobilization to keep members and allies from all divisions informed and engaged. Getting the university to move on economic issues will only happen with the active participation of the unit. We must protect our right to withhold our labor until we have health insurance and tuition and fee remission for more than the highest paid employees. If elected, I will do everything I can to share information between the table and the unit, keep the pressure up through creative mobilizations, and make sure our contract will benefit all unit workers.


Kenny Dillon, Historical Studies, NSSR

My name is Kenny Dillon, I’m a first year Historical Studies MA student. While evidently I’m a greenhorn in terms of organizing at The New School, I think that if the membership is interested in maintaining organizational consistency in the long term then electing newcomers like myself to the bargaining unit is a step in the right direction.

As an undergraduate I founded the first student union at my university which fought the administration on a proposed plan to cut nearly two dozen academic programs (and won). We specialized in demonstrations, letter writing campaigns, public and media relations, countering/correcting university updates, public petitioning, and building solidarity with

existing unions and organizations on campus. Our underground newspaper was a big hit too :). These were initiatives I had no prior experience with but figured out along the way on a ‘need-to-succeed’ basis—with a creative tenacity I’d like to continue employing as a bargaining unit member.

Professionally I’ve built some relevant experience to this position as well: as a journalist, political public relations consultant, and issue-based campaign organizer. Personally I’m…quite…interested in being paid fairly for my work as a research assistant and ensuring that our rights as an eclectic and diverse workforce are strengthened and respected. I’m looking forward to learning from the experienced members of the team and supporting a necessary and righteous union. Solidarity!


Christopher Famighetti, Milano (bio to come) 


Cagla Orpen, Politics, NSSR

I am a doctoral student in Politics with a specialization in History. I hold both union and non-union positions across the NSSR and Milano. As a long-time student and worker at the New School, I have a good understanding of the problems and obstacles that the academic workers have to face on a daily basis. I am also well acquainted with the extra hardship that the international student workers endure.

My prolonged experience at the TNS allowed me to witness the movement for our union to emerge, evolve and gain momentum. In addition to my familiarity with the academic workers’ struggles, I also hope to contribute with the skills I have acquired over time as a political activist and organizer in various platforms.

If elected I will work towards a fair contract that hopefully will be the first step in the creation of an academic and work environment where student workers are recognized for the invaluable services they provide. I will join other members of the unit in our fight for fair pay and rules of employment as well as comprehensive benefits.


Kevin Rice, Psychology, NSSR

My name is Kevin Rice and I intend to run for a position on the SENS-UAW Bargaining Committee. I am a Psychology MA student who has held multiple RA positions at the NSSR, and have been actively involved with the SENS-UAW since the Fall of 2017 as member of the Organizing Committee. Over the course of my union membership I have been deeply involved with SENS-UAW’s outreach campaigns amongst the membership, where I have gotten a unique insight into the diverse and profound issues many of our fellow working colleagues have faced, and currently face, under a disinterested administration. That is why it is my goal to seek the strongest contract we can achieve!

I will fight for late pay protections, childcare, health care, a living and competitive wage, independent sexual harassment and discrimination protections, as well as the multitude of other boiler plate rights any employee outside of the university system might expect, but as to date have been denied to us as student workers at the New School. I will also strive for transparency and democratic protocol in the decision making of the Bargain Committee in its negotiations with the Administration, with an in interest in establishing information dissemination procedures that will facilitate timely awareness and input by the membership. This includes decision making pertinent to the potential for having to go on STRIKE, as well as continuing to STRIKE, if the administration continues to disingenuously negotiate on our economic demands.


Jonas Voigt, Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons

I am a second-year MFA Transdisciplinary Design student at Parson School of Design. As an international graduate student I am facing the dilemma of paying tuition and not being allowed to work off campus. Last year I worked in multiple jobs as a teaching assistant at the School of Public Engagement and as a research assistant at Parsons to be able to sustain my studies at The New School. It simply was exhausting.  We need a union which fights for pay increases for all student workers, ensures excellent healthcare coverage, and supports the needs of international student workers and student workers with families.

At the end of last semester I got involved in organizing at my program and the overall department as the union was heading towards the strike. During undergraduate education in Germany I was a very active Member of the Student Parliament, as well as the General Students‘ Committee. I have experienced how much power students actually have as we went through the process of unionizing. It is important to me to continue this work to get an international perspective and gain practice organizing in a different system, one without free education.

I want to use this position on the bargaining committee to be both a voice for parsons students and all graduate student workers across The New School, who make this university function.

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.

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