What is collective bargaining?
Collective bargaining is a process that equalizes the power relationship between employees and their employer. With 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 collective bargaining, NYU can make changes to the terms and conditions of our employment, as they did when they revoked contract faculty eligibility for tuition remission and green card sponsorship.
Barnard’s contract faculty union negotiated a 16% salary floor increase over three years of their collective bargaining agreement. Boston University’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, and we have few avenues to pursue necessary improvements.
How would the collective bargaining process work at NYU?
The first step is building strong support and securing recognition. A majority of NYU contract faculty have signed up to support our union, and we are continuing outreach to ensure that everyone has a chance to be heard and get involved. Strengthening majority support will give us more power to get our union recognized and begin the collective bargaining process.
Under collective bargaining in the UAW, faculty fill out bargaining surveys to articulate priorities for a contract. We also elect representatives, fellow contract faculty, to a bargaining committee. Guided by the feedback in the bargaining surveys, the elected committee develops bargaining goals that we vote to approve, before sitting down with the administration and negotiating a tentative contract. Once a tentative agreement is 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 who have successfully bargained union contracts with NYU, including graduate employees and adjunct faculty, 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. 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 overwhelmingly (by a 98% margin) for a union after NYU agreed to an election in 2013, outside the NLRB. The more faculty sign up, the more power we will have to push NYU to voluntarily recognize our union.
If NYU refuses to recognize us, we can take our petition to the NLRB and ask them to call for a vote. If a majority vote yes, our union will be legally recognized and NYU will be required to begin the collective bargaining process.
Would I be included in the union?
Contract Faculty United – United Auto Workers (CFU-UAW) seeks to include full-time continuing contract faculty who work at NYU. We are full-time, non-tenure track faculty on renewable appointments from across the university. If you have a question about your eligibility or want to sign up, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are we part of the United Auto Workers?
We chose to affiliate with the UAW because it already represents over 100,000 academic workers at universities across the country. The UAW already has a strong presence on campus, representing NYU adjunct faculty and graduate employees. In addition, the UAW represents contingent faculty at Barnard, The New School, and UMASS Lowell. For decades now, UAW members have agreed to devote resources to help contingent faculty and 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 has been indispensable in helping us develop an 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. Benefits such as healthcare premiums are exempt from dues under the UAW Constitution.
Dues are important to any union because they provide the financial resources necessary to equalize power with the employer. We have democratic control to determine when faculty pay membership dues. Under the UAW constitution, 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.
What are dues used for?
Dues support a variety of resources that will give us the clout we need to effectively 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. Because the union is legally obligated to represent all of us, and all of us would be protected by the contact and receive the benefit of the union’s resources, we can choose to bargain for an arrangement wherein non-members are required to pay a comparable “fair share” fee, so that the cost of representation is shared equally.
Most academic unions have such a provision, because it ensures that members have the resources necessary to maintain a strong relationship with the administration. This is one of many issues that we would democratically decide as part of our bargaining agenda, and would be subject to negotiation with NYU.
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 a strike. Even if a supermajority of union members approves a strike, it is still be each member’s individual choice whether or not to participate. Moreover, 98% of contracts are negotiated without a strike.
It is not uncommon for workers to decide that 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. In 2015, the NYU 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.
Didn’t the NYU graduate employees go on strike in 2005 and 2021?
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 NLRB changed the law regarding graduate employees’ rights to collective bargaining. Members voted to authorize, and after the bargaining committee felt that they had exhausted all other options, GSOC went on strike. NYU was not immediately responsive, and GSOC members democratically chose to pursue continued organizing to get NYU to recognize the union outside of the NLRB; they successfully negotiated and ratified their next contract in 2015
In 2021, in response to stalled contract negotiations, 96% of voting GSOC members authorized the bargaining committee to set a strike deadline, and GSOC members went on strike for three weeks at the end of spring semester before a tentative agreement was reached. The resulting contract, ratified by 99% of GSOC voters, included a 30% increase in the rate for hourly workers and a significant expansion of health and childcare benefits.
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. This would ensure that contract faculty grievances are heard and addressed by the university in a fair and timely manner. If the grievance is not resolved, faculty would have the ability to go into 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 diverse departments and schools. Collective bargaining gives us 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 full-time continuing contract faculty are situated and evaluated. Furthermore, a tentative agreement only goes into effect if ratified by majority vote.
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 in no way compromise the right to belong to a union that represents them in the workplace. No contingent faculty member 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 U.S. on international workers visas, just as it is for U.S. 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 100,000 employees who work at universities across the U.S., and has represented workers in a variety of employment situations. International faculty and U.S. citizens have the same rights to join a union.
Barnard Contingent Faculty organized and successfully negotiated their first contract in 2017; UMASS Lowell adjunct faculty organized in 2010; adjunct faculty at NYU have had a union since 2002. These UAW academic unions have productive relationships with their university administrations, and have secured many workplace improvements for employees across their campuses, including 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. Over 100,000 workers at universities across the U.S. are UAW members, and more are organizing on their campuses every day.
As an increasingly significant part of the UAW, academic workers have joined in the union’s longstanding commitment to social justice to prioritize issues of importance to workers at U.S. universities such as civil rights, immigration reform, access to affordable and quality education, federal funding of innovative basic science research, healthcare reform, the right to collective bargaining, and many other issues.
I heard national UAW leaders were convicted of corruption. Why should we partner with a corrupt organization?
Last year, the actions of some of the leaders in the top ranks of the UAW tarnished the union’s celebrated history. Their actions do not represent who UAW members are, including NYU adjunct faculty in UAW Local 7902 and graduate and teaching assistants in UAW Local 2110. We are proud that the local we are joining helped lead charges to remove former President Gary Jones from the UAW and continues to call for reforms to ensure this never happens again. These reforms include enhanced financial controls, policies for charitable contributions and recovery of misused funds, a 24 hour anonymous hotline for members to report unethical conduct of officers, and the establishment of an independent Ethics Office led by Wilma Liebman, former Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board from 2009-2011.
The alleged and confirmed activity of these individuals, which has led to the indictments of a few former national UAW officials, is appalling and goes against the fundamental values of transparency and accountability the UAW has upheld for more than 80 years.