Frequently Asked Questions
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 the NYU administration 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, the NYU administration 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. Strong majority support gives 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 contract proposals. Once a tentative agreement is reached, faculty must vote to accept or reject the contract before it goes into effect.
Thousands of academic workers right here at NYU have successfully bargained union contracts with the NYU administration, including graduate workers and adjunct faculty, both represented by UAW local unions.
How will we get NYU to recognize our union and bargain with us?
A majority of contract faculty at NYU have said that we want a union and have now signed an open letter asking that the administration respect our right to organize a union and collectively bargain. We believe NYU should do the right thing and agree to a fair and efficient process to respect our democratic choice on this question, just as it did for graduate employees in 2013, when the graduate worker union GSOC-UAW voted overwhelmingly (by a 98% margin) for a union after NYU agreed to an election outside of a lengthy government process.
If the administration continues to refuse to respect our choice, we will need to build stronger and more visible majority support to get them to do so. But rather than delay bargaining by requiring a slow government election and process where they could try to challenge our right to a union altogether, the administration should agree to a fair and expeditious process now.
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. International faculty have the same legal right to join a union as U.S. citizens. If you have a question about your eligibility or want to sign up, please contact email@example.com.
We already elect representatives to the Continuing Contract Faculty Senators’ Council (C-FSC). Why do we need a union?
As AAUP notes: “The presence of institutions of faculty governance does not preclude the need for or usefulness of collective bargaining.” Contract faculty are active participants in shared governance throughout the university. Our elected representatives do excellent and important work, and reliably advocate for policies that would improve our working lives. However, faculty senators can only make recommendations, and NYU is free to ignore them. By contrast, with a union, NYU is required by law to bargain in good faith with an elected contract faculty bargaining committee. Once the contract is ratified, it is legally binding and enforceable.
Would a union undermine shared governance?
Faculty unions and institutions of faculty governance coexist to mutual benefit at many universities. A collective bargaining agreement covers the terms and conditions of our employment. The C-FSC and school councils and assemblies work on a wide range of issues, only some of which pertain to the terms and conditions of our employment. The need for shared governance remains, and we can bargain for contract provisions that protect our participation in existing structures.
AAUP affirms that faculty unions are an effective means of protecting academic freedom and shared governance: “by providing a contractually enforceable foundation to an institution’s collegial governance structure, collective bargaining can ensure the effectiveness of that structure and can thereby contribute significantly to the well-being of the institution.” A 2013 regression analysis-based study in the public sector, where faculty unions are common, offers evidence to support the AAUP’s position, concluding: “The results presented here suggest that faculty unions have a positive effect on the level of faculty influence at public institutions. Not surprisingly, faculty at unionized institutions have more say in decisions regarding overall salary scales as well as decisions about individual faculty salaries. However, they also have more influence in many other areas, such as appointments of faculty and department chairs, tenure and promotion, teaching loads and the curriculum, and governance. Faculty influence does not appear to suffer from any negative effects of unionization.”
What is CFU-UAW?
We are the union for full-time continuing contract faculty at NYU. Our objective is to establish recognition of our union and collective bargaining with the NYU administration. To get more involved in our effort, contact our Organizing Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why are we part of the United Auto Workers?
We chose to affiliate with the UAW because it currently represents over 100,000 academic workers at universities across the country, including non-tenure track faculty at Barnard, the New School, and UMass Lowell. Non-tenure track instructors and researchers at Harvard also recently announced they are organizing with UAW. More importantly, NYU adjunct faculty and graduate workers have established a strong UAW presence on our campus. We are proud to have the support of our grad and adjunct colleagues, and to be able to draw on their deep experience in collective bargaining with the NYU administration.
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.
Who is on the CFU Organizing Committee?
The CFU Organizing Committee is a group of contract faculty volunteers working to build a union at NYU. Membership is open to all NYU contract faculty who support unionization; if you would like to be notified about upcoming meetings, please contact us.
What is the relationship between the CFU Organizing Committee (OC), Contract Faculty United (CFU), and the United Auto Workers (UAW)?
The CFU Organizing Committee is working to build a union for NYU contract faculty, assisted by UAW staff. When our union is recognized, Contract Faculty United (CFU) will be the union for full-time continuing contract faculty at NYU, affiliated with UAW Local 7902. We will be part of a larger network of over 10,000 UAW academic workers in the New York area, and more than 100,000 UAW academic workers across the U.S.
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. Under the UAW constitution, we have democratic control to determine when faculty pay membership dues, and no NYU contract faculty member will pay any dues until after a bargaining committee WE elect successfully negotiates a contract with the NYU administration, and after 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 occur after a vote in which 2/3 of members voting authorize their elected representatives on the bargaining committee to call a strike. 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. In 2015, the NYU graduate employee union GSOC-UAW reached an agreement with NYU after a majority of graduate employees authorized the bargaining committee to call a strike if they deemed necessary. In 2022, after nearly six months of bargaining and two contract extensions, NYU adjunct faculty with ACT-UAW voted to authorize a strike, bringing the NYU administration back to the table and winning contract terms that set a new standard for part-time faculty nationwide.
Didn’t the NYU graduate workers go on strike in 2005 and 2021?
Yes. When employers take very rigid positions in bargaining, workers can choose to hold 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, a significant expansion of health and childcare benefits, and other victories.
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, and have a neutral third party — rather than NYU leadership — resolve the dispute.
Can one union represent the interests of many different schools and departments?
Yes. NYU contract faculty are a diverse group with a wide range of salaries, responsibilities, benefits, pay structure and expertise — but we are no less diverse than comparable units in the public sector, where collective bargaining is standard practice. Faculty and professional staff at 29 SUNY campuses have one flexible contract that allows for the specific circumstances of departments and campuses of different types and sizes, all across the state. Diverse groups of academics have also organized with the UAW to win strong contracts that lift up all members. For instance, UAW 2865 comprises more than 19,000 academic workers across nine University of California campuses.
Collective bargaining gives us the ability to democratically determine our priorities and bargain a contract that seeks improvements for everyone covered by the contract. 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 a majority of NYU contract faculty voters choose to ratify it.
Could NYU contract faculty end up worse off with a union contract?
Under U.S. labor law, NYU is required to bargain in good faith. This means that once our union is recognized, NYU cannot make further changes to the terms and conditions of our employment while bargaining is ongoing, or seek to alter the structure of our jobs. Bargaining begins from the status quo, and seeks to secure the terms and conditions of our employment in a legally-binding contract.
Will a union institute salary caps, or reduce salaries for high-earning faculty in order to secure increases for low-earning faculty?
No UAW union for academic workers has negotiated a contract that requires all covered employees to make the same amount. As contract faculty, we will make our own decisions about priorities for our contract, and we will vote on whether to accept any tentative agreement. No one has expressed an interest in a contract that requires all contract faculty to be paid the same.
These concerns are frequently cited by administrators, but they have no basis in reality. Union contracts typically set salary minimums, not maximums, while also ensuring guaranteed increases for all employees. For example, our NYU adjunct colleagues’ union contract guarantees a minimum rate for the courses they teach, but NYU can and does pay some adjunct faculty substantially more. It is not uncommon for faculty unions to pursue higher increases for lower-paid members in negotiation, but those goals and others would be determined democratically by us in the run-up to bargaining.
Currently, NYU contract faculty negotiate our individual salaries upon appointment and reappointment, based on salary minimums that vary by rank, title and school – and this system has left many contract faculty far behind our peers at unionized institutions. With collective bargaining, we could negotiate as equals with NYU administration, which would give all of us more power to negotiate improvements that help all faculty. A collective bargaining agreement would not eliminate distinctions between faculty in different schools, ranks, and titles, nor would it prevent individual faculty from negotiating salary increases in excess of contractually-mandated minimums.
Will a union introduce new rules about how I’m allowed to do my job?
No changes to workplace practices and policies go into our union contract unless we request and democratically agree to pursue them in collective bargaining.
If I am an international faculty member, am I allowed to participate in the union?
Yes. 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 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 NYU administration, including adjunct faculty and grad employees. The UAW represents over 100,000 academic workers across the U.S., and has represented faculty in a variety of employment situations. International faculty and U.S. citizens have the same rights to join a union.
Over the past few decades, more than 20,000 academic workers across our region alone have successfully organized unions: NYU adjunct faculty and graduate workers; Barnard adjunct and contract faculty; Harvard grad workers; UConn student workers and postdocs; New School part-time faculty and student workers; Columbia graduate, undergraduate, and postdoctoral workers; Mt. Sinai postdocs. 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?
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. In New York City, UAW members include workers at publishing houses, museums, nonprofits, and universities. Across the U.S., over 100,000 workers at universities are UAW members, and more are organizing on their campuses every day. We ARE the United Auto Workers.
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?
A few years ago, corruption uncovered in the top ranks of the UAW’s former leadership tarnished the union’s celebrated history. The actions of those officials do not reflect 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 implement ethics reforms to ensure this never happens again, including 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.
Since news of corruption broke in 2019, rank-and-file UAW members like our adjunct and grad colleagues have successfully organized for democratic reforms. In 2021, UAW members voted overwhelmingly to move to a system of direct elections for leadership, and in 2022, members in our region elected reformer and academic worker Brandon Mancilla of Harvard’s HGSU-UAW to be our representative on the International Executive Board.