United Automobile Workers

Mar 05 2024

Academic Student Workers at The New School Set March 6 Strike Deadline

New York, NY - After more than six months of bargaining their successor contract, teaching fellows, teaching assistants, course assistants, research assistants, and tutors at The New School, represented by United Auto Workers (UAW), will go on strike this coming Wednesday. Having authorized their strike with 94% voting yes, and a historic 77% of members participating, academic student workers have a powerful mandate for its work stoppage. For over half a year the workers have bargained continuously and in good faith with The New School. The university, meanwhile, has dragged its feet, and offered insulting poverty wages in a time of skyrocketing inflation. The strike will proceed unless the university comes back to the table before March 6 with an acceptable offer.

Less than one year after their professors walked off the job for 25 days, academic student workers began negotiating the terms of their new union contract. The workers are asking for higher wages and improved health care, alongside workplace and standard of living reforms like access to a childcare fund and better support for international students. Unlike many graduate students in the U.S., most at The New School pay tuition and do not receive stipends. The average academic student worker makes about 11K per year, and none make more than 24K. This is a special hardship for international students who are restricted from most forms of off-campus work. Academic student workers do not earn a New York City living wage and none make enough to afford even a shared apartment within a 90-minute commute from campus. To be an academic student worker at The New School is to be in a state of near constant financial anxiety.

Union members regularly report delays in pay and disbursement of stipends due to bureaucratic mismanagement by the university, which has left several members scrambling to figure out how to pay for basic necessities like housing and transportation. Workers have been forced to draw down from savings or rely upon the goodwill of friends, with little to no clarity from the university on when these issues will be resolved.

These experiences are not exclusive to research assistants. Non-academic student workers in a range of campus locations including dorms, libraries, wood and metal shops, admissions offices, Human Resources, Information Technology, and more are prepared to walk off the job with their colleagues. The predominantly undergraduate workforce is awaiting a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board about their ability to form a wall-to-wall student worker union with the striking academic student workers.

Academic student workers are 6.5% of the total workforce at The New School. They are asking for a compensation and health care package that would be worth less than 1% of the university’s operating budget. The university’s last insulting compensation offer for the over 500 workers, which wouldn’t even begin to address their financial hardship, is for less than what New School executives made in bonuses alone in 2022. While academic student workers experience both housing and food insecurity, New School executive salaries continue to bloat, with pay packages, including bonuses, on par with those at far wealthier Ivy League institutions. Perpetually strapped for cash, The New School still spends big on executive salaries by keeping its labor force—the workers that actually keep the school going—in abject poverty.

At a university founded on progressive values, and once a sanctuary to scholars fleeing the spread of fascism in Europe, the union believes that The New School can do better not just for its academic student workers, but for its workforce and student population as a whole. Academic student workers are merely picking up where their professors left off. Barring an acceptable offer from the university, the workers will strike for higher wages and for the betterment of the university community as a whole.

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About ACT-UAW 7902: Founded in 2002, ACT-UAW Local 7902 represents over 5,000 part-time and adjunct teachers, student educators, and healthcare workers. It consists of four units: the NYU Adjuncts, New School part-time faculty, student employees at The New School, and New School student health service employees.







Contact Information

Jonah Furman

Feldman Strategies, team@feldmanstrategies.com