The New School and Academic Student Workers End Strike and Reach a Tentative Deal

After months of negotiations and a three-day strike, academic student workers at The New School have reached a tentative agreement with the university for a successor contract.

Pending ratification, the deal would give the university’s academic student workers, who are members of the ACT-UAW Local 7902, across-the-board raises ranging between 24 percent and 31 percent, and 80 percent health care coverage would be provided for all graduate workers.

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In July, the university had reportedly proposed a 6 percent increase across the board in the first year and then a 3.5 percent increase over the following five years. The union had put forward at that time a 40 percent hike and then 13.5 percent increases over the next two years.

The contract would also secure a few firsts, including the first codification in a labor agreement in the U.S. of protection for trans and reproductive rights. It also would call for The New School’s first child care fund for the parents and families within the university community. In a statement released by union representatives Saturday, organizers said the university “was far behind in standards for graduate worker employment compared to similar institutions of higher education, and this agreement goes a long way towards making the workers whole.”

However, the proposed contract falls short of what union representatives bargained for last summer.

Asked for comment Saturday, a New School spokesperson referenced a post by the university’s vice president of human resources Sonya Williams. “We are pleased to announce the SEN-UAW Local 7902, representing out academic student workers, and The New School have reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement. This is a strong, fair, three-year contract. The union had ended the strike, and all university classes will resume as scheduled effective immediately.”

The statement continued, “The union leadership will recommend this agreement to its members, and it will now go to the union members for a ratification vote. We want to share our sincere gratitude to the members of both the union and the university bargaining teams for their dedication and tireless work. Now, together, we can return to our mission of teaching, learning, creating and supporting our students.”

In total, Local 7902, which was founded in 2002, represents more than 5,000 part-time and adjunct teachers, student educators and health care workers and consists of four units — New York University adjuncts, The New School’s part-time faculty, student employees at The New School and The New School student health service employees.

Union officials said the recent strike “would not have been possible without the many New SWU members who went on strike in solidarity and joined their fellow student workers on the picket line.” Dozens of NewSWU members had joined in the Local 7902 in hopes that that unit will “soon” be recognized at The New School, adding that “unionized workers look forward to building a just, safe, and healthy workplace for all university community members.”

Organized labor has been rekindled across the U.S. under the Biden administration and has been restored to levels that were last present in the 1960s. One of the more unexpected unionizing efforts recently happened at Dartmouth University, where the men’s basketball team voted to unionize. Announcing the tentative deal with The New School, the Local 7902 cited other “labor wins” in higher education, specifically the contract faculty at New York University, including the adjunct faculty at ACT-UAW. Local 7902 stated, “As employment at institutions of higher learning becomes increasingly precarious, and neoliberal university administrations choose to sink tuition dollars into bloated bureaucracies instead of fair pay for faculty and staff, unions are stepping in to maintain the standards and values that universities formerly upheld.”

A media request seeking further comment that was sent to ACT-UAW president Zoe Carey and a union spokesperson Saturday was not acknowledged by Sunday afternoon.

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