What is Collective Bargaining?
Collective bargaining is a process that equalizes the power relationship between employees and their employer. Under collective bargaining, we elect representatives to negotiate with NYU to put the terms of our employment into a legally-binding agreement that we vote to ratify before it goes into effect. Without it, NYU can and does make changes, like the tuition remission and green card sponsorships that were previously available for contract faculty.
Barnard’s contract faculty union negotiated a 16% salary floor increase over three years of the collective bargaining agreement. BU’s contract faculty union secured an average salary increase of 15% in the first year of the contract, with lowest-paid members receiving the biggest increases; they also won automatic annual 2.5% cost-of-living increases.Without collective bargaining, NYU retains the unilateral ability to make changes without our consent.
How would the process of collective bargaining work at NYU?
The first step is to build a strong majority of support. The more faculty who sign up at NYU the more power we will have to get NYU to recognize our union and bargain a fair contract. If a majority votes yes then NYU has a legal obligation to bargain with us as equals.
Under collective bargaining in the UAW, faculty fill out bargaining surveys to articulate priorities for a contract. We would also elect representatives, fellow Contract Faculty, to a bargaining committee. Guided by the feedback in the bargaining surveys, the elected committee would develop bargaining goals that we vote to approve. Then they would sit down with the administration and negotiate a tentative contract. Once a tentative agreement has been reached, faculty must vote to accept or reject the contract before it goes into effect.
There are already thousands of academic workers here at NYU that have successfully bargained contracts with NYU. The graduate employees and the adjunct faculty are both represented by UAW local unions.
How will we get NYU to recognize our union and bargain with us?
Currently we have two options to form our union, petitioning the NLRB to have an election or getting NYU to voluntarily recognize our union. Given that a majority of the current NLRB members have been appointed by President Trump, working through the NLRB has significant risks that could delay recognition of our union. For example, NYU could challenge our right to collective bargaining and, given their Trump majority’s interest in eliminating union rights for academic workers, we could be tied up in litigation for years and/or enable the Trump appointees to set bad precedent for tens of thousands of our colleagues across the US. While we don’t believe that we should be exempt from unionization rights, we don’t believe the Trump labor board would agree based on their handling of cases in the last few years.
Moreover, we believe NYU should do the right thing and honor our choice as contract faculty as they have done for graduate employees. The graduate employee union GSOC-UAW voted overwhelming by a 98% margin to have a union after NYU agreed to an election in 2013 outside the NLRB. The more faculty we sign up for the union the more power we will have to push them to agree to an election outside the NLRB.
Would I be included in the union?
The Contract Faculty Union-United Auto Workers (CFU-UAW) seeks to include full time, contracted faculty members who work at NYU. We are non-tenure track and non adjunct faculty from across the university. If you have a question about your eligibility or want to sign up please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are we part of the United Auto Workers?
We choose to affiliate with the UAW, since it represents academic workers all across the country. The UAW already has a strong presence on campus, representing adjunct faculty and graduate employees here at NYU. In addition the UAW represents contingent faculty at Barnard, The New School, and UMASS Lowell. Over 75,000 workers are part of the UAW who work in higher education at institutions such as Columbia, Harvard, UConn and UW, UC and CSU. For decades now, UAW members have agreed to devote resources to help graduate workers win difficult campaigns to establish unions – 18 years of organizing at NYU for the graduate employees to eventually win an election outside of the NLRB, a 16-year struggle at the University of California, and a five-year struggle at the University of Washington. The experience and expertise developed over these years is indispensable in helping us have the most effective campaign at NYU.
How much are membership dues and when do we start paying?
After a contract is in place, union members will pay just 1.44% of our gross income in dues. We have democratic control of when faculty will pay membership dues. Dues are important to any union because they provide the financial resources necessary to equalize power with the employer. Under UAW policy, contract faculty will not pay any dues until after a bargaining committee WE elect, successfully negotiates a contract with NYU and WE vote to approve that contract.
Benefits such as healthcare premiums are exempt from dues under the UAW Constitution.
What are dues used for?
Dues support a variety of resources that will give us the clout to represent our members. These include educational, legal, negotiating, and other membership services. Dues also contribute to organizing new groups of workers, the strike fund, and political action. Right now, the dues of other UAW members are funding our organizing campaign.
Will all of us be required to be members of the Union and pay dues or fees?
No one can be required to become a member of the Union after we have a contract. Dues are 1.44% of our annual income. But since the Union is legally obligated to represent all of us, and all of us would receive the benefits of the contract, we can have an arrangement where non-members are required to pay a comparable “fair share” fee so the cost of representation is shared equally. But this would be something we decide as part of our bargaining agenda and would be subject to negotiation with NYU.
Most academic Unions have such a provision because it means we have the most resources available to maintain a strong relationship with the administration.
Will we have to strike?
We would decide democratically whether or not to call a strike. Under the UAW constitution, a strike can only be called after a strike authorization vote in which 2/3 of members voting approve giving the Union authority to call a strike. Even if a supermajority of union members were to approve a strike, it would still be an individual choice whether or not to participate. Moreover, 98% of contracts get negotiated without a strike.
While strikes are rare, it is not uncommon that workers decide it is necessary to prepare for a possible strike in order to convince a university to reach a reasonable agreement during negotiations. At Boston University, full-time continuing contract faculty voted to authorize a strike, resumed negotiation, and won a strong first contract with an average 15% salary increase in the first year. At NYU, the graduate employee union GSOC-UAW Local 2110 reached an agreement with NYU after a majority of graduate employees authorized the bargaining committee to call a strike if they deemed necessary.
But didn’t the NYU graduate employees go on strike in 2005?
Yes. Occasionally, employers frequently take very rigid positions in bargaining, forcing employees to take a strike vote and prepare to strike in order to achieve a fair contract. In 2005 NYU refused to bargain a fair contract after the Bush administration changed the law regarding graduate employees rights to collective bargaining. Members voted to go on strike and after the bargaining committee felt like they had exhausted their options, GSOC went on strike. NYU was not immediately responsive and democratically GSOC choose to pursue continued organizing to get NYU to recognize the union outside of the NLRB.
How does a neutral grievance procedure allow us to enforce the contract?
A neutral grievance procedure allows a member of the union to file a grievance if any part of the contract is not being enforced. The grievance procedure would ensure a fair process for contract faculty to have their grievance heard and addressed by the University in a timely manner. If the grievance is not resolved, a contract faculty would have the ability to go to arbitration, in which a neutral third party would resolve the dispute.
Can one union represent the interests of many different schools and departments?
NYU contract faculty are a diverse group of workers with a wide range of salaries, responsibilities, benefits, pay structure and expertise. The UAW has negotiated contracts at many higher education institutions with equally as diverse departments and schools. With collective bargaining we would have the ability to democratically determine our priorities and bargain a contract that seeks improvements for everyone covered by the union. A union contract is not a “one size fits all” document; it will account for the varying ways continuing contract faculty are situated. We vote also vote to ratify the contract before it goes into effect.
If I am an international faculty member, am I allowed to participate in the Union?
International workers have the same legal right to join a union as American citizens. Visa requirements that international faculty members may only accept employment associated with the University sponsoring their visa no way compromises the right to belong to a Union that represents them in the workplace. No contingent faculty who is part of the UAW has reported any complications arising from the dual status of being both an international faculty member and a unionized employee.
Participation in political activities such as picketing, rallies, leafleting, and demonstrations, is protected under the Constitution for those residing in the US on international workers visas just as it is for US citizens.
Can NYU retaliate against me if I sign up in support of the union?
Retaliation is against the law, and you have rights as an NYU employee and union supporter. Thousands of NYU employees have already organized with the UAW and bargained with the administration, including adjuncts and grad employees. The UAW represents over 75,000 employees who work at universities across the US and have represented workers in a variety of employment situations. International faculty and US citizens have the same rights to join a union.
Barnard Contingent Faculty organized and successfully negotiated their first contract in 2017. Adjunct faculty at NYU have had a union since 2002 and have had a productive relationship with NYU. UMASS Lowell adjunct faculty organized in 2010. These unions have secured many workplace improvements for employees across their campuses. Unionization can result in protections that are especially valuable for international academic employees.
What do we have in common with Auto Workers?
We “are” the United Auto Workers. Since its establishment in the mid-1930s, the UAW has been a dynamic, democratic organization representing a diverse array of workers, including tens of thousands of “white-collar workers” like technical writers, engineers, attorneys, administrative employees, academic workers, and others.
As an increasingly significant part of the UAW, academic workers have joined in the UAW’s longstanding commitment to social justice to prioritize issues of importance to workers at US universities such as civil rights, immigration reform, access to affordable and quality education, federal funding of innovative basic science research, health care reform, the right to collective bargaining, among other issues.
I heard national UAW leaders were convicted of corruption. Why should we partner with a corrupt organization?
Last fall, after indictments were issued in the UAW-Chrysler NTC investigation, the federal government began an inquiry into the joint program centers the UAW has established through collective bargaining. The alleged activity of these individuals, which has led to indictments of a few former national UAW officials, is appalling, highly unusual and goes against the fundamental values of transparency and accountability the UAW has upheld for more than 80 years.
These activities did not involve UAW membership dues money, but rather Chrysler and GM money that funds the National Training Centers (NTCs). Fortunately, the UAW has a long-standing, strict system of transparency and accountability to prevent individuals from misusing members’ dues money. While none of the alleged activities have involved misuse of dues money, the UAW has nevertheless redoubled efforts through its Clean Slate reform agenda to strengthen transparency and accountability. The Union has also worked actively with the companies to see that financial protections and oversight are in place to prevent this type of thing from occurring again at the NTCs. Last fall, after indictments were issued in the UAW-Chrysler NTC investigation, the federal government began an inquiry into the joint program centers the UAW has established through collective bargaining.
I’ve heard the UAW leaders in Chicago refused to help their own members with sexual harassment?
The alleged behavior of those leaders is appalling. While some local union leaders have been resistant to the union being a vehicle to address issues of sexual harassment, academic locals have addressed these issues through the union with increasing success. The appalling behavior of leaders in another workplace does not negate the fact that unionization enables us to negotiate stronger avenues of recourse, such as graduate assistants did at the University of Connecticut and postdocs at the University of California. At UConn, for example, graduate assistants have used their grievance process to successfully resolve instances of harassment.