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Update on Yesterday’s Bargaining Session with SENS-UAW Local 7902, Academic Student Workers Union

A Message from Sonya Williams, Vice President for Human Resources

I am writing to share an update following negotiations yesterday with SENS-UAW Local 7902—the union representing our Academic Student Workers.

The university’s bargaining team met with the union for the second time and was eager to hear the union’s response to our proposed initial package. It is important to the university that we continue to do everything that we can to facilitate a productive and smooth bargaining process, but more importantly, to reach a mutual agreement on a new contract that demonstrates our appreciation of, and commitment to, our Academic Student Workers. The university offered to make this a full-day discussion, but the union informed the university that it would only meet for three hours.   

Overall, the union did not present a comprehensive counter proposal on ground rules; did not present a comprehensive response to the university’s complete bargaining package proposal of July 17; and did not respond to the university’s offer to consider a work release plan, which would allow the union’s bargaining committee members to be relieved of their work duties during agreed-upon negotiating dates. The university and the union continued discussions about the university’s offer to allow The New School community to view negotiations; discussed a handful of counter proposals presented by the union; and discussed the union’s request for certain information.

The Union Declined the University’s Offer to Provide a Link for All Members of the University Community to View Bargaining

The university is committed to transparency in these negotiations. That is why on July 24, we offered to make a Zoom link available so that all members of the university community could view bargaining sessions in real time, with a recording link available for those who were unable to join. On August 3 the union rejected the university’s offer, but did not provide a counter on this point despite the university’s request for a response in advance of yesterday’s meeting. Instead, the union’s bargaining team sought to open yesterday’s session to all UAW 7902 bargaining unit members and the organizing New Student Workers Union via remote access, without providing adequate notice to the university or access to the session for other key constituencies within The New School community.  

The union also rejected the university’s offer to record sessions so that those in the community who were unable to view the session live could watch it at their convenience. Since we were not able to reach an agreement on this topic, both sides continued with the in-person session.   

We hope the union remains open to working towards agreement on this topic, as we understand the desire for transparency from our entire community. We hope we come to an arrangement with the union that allows the whole community to hear what is said at the bargaining table. 

As a further step towards ensuring full transparency, our bargaining team also asked the union to publish its written proposals on its website, as the university is already doing, and the union has not agreed to this. 

Union Continues to Refuse to Respond to Ground Rules to Allow for Real Progress in Negotiations 

While we were pleased to be able to reach a tentative agreement on Article XIII encompassing access to personnel files, the union has still not provided a response to the ground rules we proposed on June 14, which would help build a foundation for how we approach the bargaining process together and work towards a mutual agreement. Neither the university nor the union can make unilateral decisions about the bargaining process, which is why having agreed-upon ground rules is necessary.

On June 14, the university proposed the following in an effort to allow for substantive bargaining to take place in a timely manner, and the union has refused to agree to any of these offers:

  • Making our bargaining team available to meet union leaders at any time and as often as necessary to get a contract in place.
  • Asking the union to agree to bring in a jointly selected, professional mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
  • Requesting a contract extension from the union, to give both sides the ability to have substantive bargaining sessions before the expiration of the contract.

The University Provided Significant Responses to the Union’s Information Request 

The university has also provided the union with a significant amount of documentation in response to the union’s extensive information request received by the university days before our initial bargaining session and almost two months after our notice to bargain. The union acknowledged it received our response and was working to review it. The university will continue to fulfill its obligation to respond to the information request based on new information learned in yesterday’s session. 

Lack of Comprehensive Proposals from the Union

We appreciate that the union shared some responses to our opening proposal. The union has so far provided responses to the following provisions: 

  • Meeting spaces for the union to gather for meetings and social events;
  • Expanding the rights of academic student workers to strike during the life of the contract;
  • Discharge and disciplinary action to expedite the grievance arbitration process for international students; and 
  • Personnel records, as initially proposed in the university’s initial package. 

We will review these responses carefully but still await a substantive response from the union to the university’s July 17 initial offer.

As a reminder, this comprehensive proposal is valued at a total of $46 million over 6 years. It includes a 29% pay increase over 6 years, as well as pay for necessary training, competitive health insurance options, sick leave and subsidized paid family leave premiums.

Future Bargaining Dates

The university accepted the union’s offer to bargain on two dates:

  • August 25 from 11:00am to 2:00pm
  • September 11 from 11:00am to 1:00pm 

Despite the union’s refusal to agree to more bargaining dates, the university remains ready to meet at any time, during business and after hours, on weekends, and for any amount of time so we can reach a new agreement that recognizes and rewards the hard work of our part-time student employees. We hope the union leadership will change its position and meet us at the table, and we ask the union to engage substantively with us on the issues, so that we can achieve that goal, together.

We are committed to remaining transparent throughout the process and will share updates on our Union Negotiations page. You can also stay updated by signing up for email updates here, and by following @knowournewschool on Twitter and Instagram.

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