NYU Campus Unions Prepare for a Hot Fall Semester!

Contract Faculty United-UAW is one of many NYU campus unions gearing up for a hot fall semester. NYU Researchers United-UAW recently announced that a majority of postdoctoral, graduate, and staff researchers have signed up in support of forming their union. Together, we represent over 5,000 NYU academic workers responsible for the university’s day-to-day operations. We’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with our researcher colleagues, demanding that NYU’s new president respect our collective bargaining rights.

While professors and researchers fight for recognition, UCATS, the union for NYU clerical and technical staff, will be asking the administration to recognize the tireless efforts and ingenuity of the workers who carried NYU through the transition to remote work and instruction. UCATS workers have always turned out to support contract faculty; we look forward to supporting them in bargaining.

Finally, after their historic contract campaign last fall, our adjunct colleagues are organizing to ensure they actually receive gains won at the bargaining table. In Liberal Studies and elsewhere across campus, the NYU administration has refused to fund the raises in ACT-UAW’s new contract. To avoid paying adjunct faculty what they deserve, the administration has instead asked chairs to cancel classes, combine sections, and raise course caps. NYU faculty of all ranks — from grad TAs to contract and tenured faculty — have called on the administration to reverse course, and Liberal Studies faculty are asking all members of the NYU community to sign on to an open letter. We urge you to add your name:

Sign the Collective Action Letter in Support of NYU Adjunct Faculty

There are more active unions on NYU’s campus than at any point in recent memory, and our students have never been more supportive of the labor movement. We’re excited to join with our coworkers to educate the community about how this university works, and to ask Linda Mills what kind of university she wants NYU to be. To get involved in organizing, please reply here.


Join Our Planning Assembly

Last week, contract faculty from across NYU met with the administration, as we continue to seek an agreement on our appropriate bargaining unit, and on a fair election process. 

While we’ve made progress since demonstrating majority support last spring, the administration is still attempting to deny many contract faculty the right to choose collective bargaining by voting in a union election. Their current proposal would exclude:

  • Contract faculty in the Rory Meyers College of Nursing. They claim that Meyers clinical professors have substantially different jobs than the rest of us. We know that our colleagues in Nursing are doing the same work as everyone else. 
  • Contract faculty in service roles across NYU. When service to the university requires us to step into temporary leadership positions in our programs and departments, they claim that we become members of the NYU administration. We know that rotating into a directorship isn’t like being appointed dean or vice provost or chair — it’s agreeing to take on necessary additional work without much additional pay.

Last week, we spoke directly to our experience as contract faculty doing critical service work, and we hope that the NYU administration’s lawyers found our testimony clarifying. Over the past few months, they’ve conceded that many of the exclusions they initially proposed were misguided, and we’re eager to continue moving towards a fair union election for all NYU contract faculty.

We’ve had success in these meetings because we’ve used our knowledge as individual union members to build collective power, and to show the administration that we have broad support and high participation across NYU schools. If we continue to bring new contract faculty into organizing, we can ensure a fair election and win our union.

Crafting a winning strategy will be the fruit of our coming together to make decisions democratically. We encourage you to join our upcoming Planning Assembly, Weds. August 9th from 2:30 – 3:30 pm on Zoom. This meeting is open to all CFU members, so we can discuss our progress to date and make decisions about next steps. RSVP by replying to this email, and an organizer will follow up with meeting info.

Scott Fitzgerald, Industry Associate Professor and Director of Integrated Design and Media, Department of Technology, Culture, and Society (Tandon School of Engineering)

Hannah Gurman, Clinical Associate Professor and Co-Director of the Graduate Program (Gallatin School of Individualized Study)

Jeremy Nelson, Associate Arts Professor, Co-Director of the Second Avenue Dance Company and Associate Chair, Department of Dance (Tisch School of the Arts)

Heather Woodley, Clinical Associate Professor and Director of Childhood Education, Department of Teaching & Learning (Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development)


Support Our Adjunct Colleagues

As we continue working on a potential agreement with the NYU administration for a fair election process, we want to reiterate support for our already unionized adjunct colleagues. 

In recent weeks, the administration has continued to try to exclude many contract faculty from our potential bargaining unit. For this reason, we are further concerned to hear about the administration’s recent measures to reduce part-time faculty course loads, as part of a coordinated effort across schools to limit the teaching assignments of dozens of adjunct professors and eliminate some adjunct teaching positions altogether. The administration’s predictable resistance to faculty efforts to organize ourselves for better working conditions and meaningful academic freedom extends to our adjunct colleagues, as well as our own ongoing effort to establish collective bargaining. You can read our full statement of support here. 

NYU adjunct faculty are currently facing a coordinated and retaliatory union-busting campaign. Following ACT-UAW’s landmark contract agreement in Fall 2022, the administration has taken extraordinary measures to limit the teaching assignments of dozens of adjunct professors and eliminate some adjunct teaching positions altogether. The specific measures taken by the administration have been outlined in detail in the statements released by ACT-UAW, the executive officers of NYU-AAUP, and concerned contract faculty in Liberal Studies. They include the reduction in the course loads of all Writing core adjuncts in Liberal Studies, the shifting of courses to odd hours in an apparent effort to generate under-enrollment, and the “non-appointment” of multiple members of the adjunct faculty on what amounts to a technicality.  

The first notification of these measures followed the submission of spring semester grades, at a time when many adjunct faculty members are away from campus and unable to adequately respond to or protest these life-altering changes. There is no clear academic rationale for these decisions. 

Contract faculty must stand with our adjunct colleagues and NYU-AAUP in questioning the explanations that have thus far been offered. Although the administration frequently broadcasts its respect and appreciation for all members of the NYU community, its actions betray their disregard for adjunct labor, and, by extension, the working lives of all NYU faculty. Coming on the heels of a hard-fought contract, their effort to erode union power undermines the administration’s claims that it operates in good faith with ACT-UAW and the other unions representing thousands of NYU faculty and staff. 

The administration’s actions towards our adjunct colleagues should alert and galvanize us as we negotiate the terms of a contract faculty union election process. The vast majority of NYU courses are taught by non-tenure track faculty, including contract faculty and thousands of adjunct faculty. The summary curtailing of the teaching responsibilities of dozens of faculty members represents an unacceptable breach of trust on the part of the administration, and is antithetical to the spirit of community they purport to value. To cultivate that spirit of community, we need to defend adjunct labor rights as we fight for our labor rights as contract faculty.

We stand with our adjunct colleagues in urging the NYU administration to address the demands issued in our adjunct colleagues’ recent press release. Please feel free to reply directly for any questions or thoughts. To learn more about how to get involved in efforts to support our adjunct colleagues, and our own effort to raise standards and establish collective bargaining for contract faculty at NYU, click here.


Get Involved In Our Organizing Efforts This Summer!

In the last few months our union has made great progress toward winning recognition from the NYU administration thanks to the active, vocal participation of a growing number of contract faculty across campus. As we near our goal, and in order to win our union,  it’s important we keep amplifying our unified voice.

This Friday, Jun 23rd we’re offering an organizing training session on best practices to speak to colleagues across campus about our union, learn answers to common questions, and discuss how to get involved in our organizing efforts so we can win meaningful improvements and protections to our working conditions. The training will begin at 2pm at 411 Lafayette St, room 331 and run for roughly an hour. You can RSVP here! 

If you would like to get the training but can’t make this date, please reply to this email to let us know. We plan to host more sessions in the coming weeks too. Consider that the summer may be the perfect time for you to get more involved.

We’re also in the middle of Pride Month, and on Sunday we’ll be marching with our UAW siblings and other academic workers in the Queer Liberation March. Pride celebrates the anniversary of Stonewall, and one of its lessons is that change doesn’t happen unless people step up to make it happen. Meet us for the Queer Liberation March at the statue in the northwest corner of Foley Square at 3pm Sunday, 6/25. 

Thanks for signing up in support of our union. Now we’re continuing to prepare for the period ahead by taking a more active role and helping grow majority support, so that we can make sure the administration makes the right decision to negotiate with us in good faith. Join us on Friday to learn how to do it.


There Is Power in Our Union

As we close the book on spring semester 2023, we’ve made meaningful progress towards winning our union. Because of our increased pressure this semester, the NYU administration has agreed to enter a voluntary process so that we can verify our majority support through a union election, and we are continuing to meet with them in order to reach a fair and neutral agreement.. We have momentum, and we have to keep it up. Let us know when you’re around this summer to help.

At the beginning of this academic year, we were in a radically different position. Despite our majority support, the NYU administration was unwilling to recognize our union — just as they had been ever since 2020. What changed?

We all did. We all stopped waiting for the NYU administration to do the right thing, and demanded that they come to the table. A majority of contract faculty  — over five hundred of us from across NYU schools — signed on to our petition demanding a fast fair process. We rallied and made sure President Hamilton could hear us all the way up on the 12th floor. We hung posters and spoke to our students.

They couldn’t ignore us: our presence, the basic fairness of our demands, the undeniable and consistent support of our students. We brought the pressure, and it brought them to the table: they agreed to a voluntary process, so we can avoid the drawn out, uncertain, lawyer-driven process of the NLRB. 

Winning an agreement in principle to a voluntary process was a major step forward. But the administration’s initial proposal fell far short, with so many exceptions and carve-outs that only a few hundred contract faculty would have been able to vote in our election and get the benefits of collective bargaining. So we all came out again: we picketed in front of Bobst, we passed leaflets at Weekend at the Square, and we rallied with our union siblings in GSOC, UCATS, and up the street at the New School on May Day. 

Now, we’re much closer. We still don’t have an agreement, but the past several months of negotiations have taught us a valuable lesson: turn out or lose out. We can win the union we need and bargain the contract we deserve, but to do so we all need to be prepared for important upcoming fights:

First, the administration wants to exclude contract faculty who take on extra administrative service that involves overseeing part-time colleagues. We know that this is crucial work that makes the university work — and also that whatever their titles, these contract faculty remain just that — contract faculty, with the same interests as other contract faculty. Indeed, taking a position like academic director or director of graduate studies often puts contract faculty in the line of fire, making the protections of a collectively bargained contract all the more important. We cannot accept a vision of the university in which people who coordinate programs do not have full academic freedom. 

Second, the administration wants to carve out faculty in the Rory Meyers College of Nursing. The administration’s outside lawyer claims that’s because our Nursing colleagues don’t perform the same sort of work that the rest of the contract faculty do — but we know otherwise. After all, part-time Meyers faculty are in the adjunct union. Meyers contract faculty teach, research, and perform crucial service work. They deserve a union like the rest of us.

Even when we win these two fights, there will be other issues to resolve, but we know exactly what we have to do to fight and win. Keep up the momentum. Turn up. Make sure you tell us when you’re available this summer.


Turn Out on May Day – Our Work Makes…

What a semester it’s been! We’ve made sure the whole university community knows we want a union, and that we demand a fair election process to verify our majority support.

Our pressure campaign brought the NYU administration to the table, and our continued action has held them accountable and forced them to engage. For the past several weeks, we’ve been meeting with administration representatives and their lawyers trying to agree on the “bargaining unit” — that is, on who should get to vote in an election to decide the union question, and, even more importantly, who should be covered by our eventual union contract. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.

The lawyers we’re talking to claim to represent “the university,” but we know better. They may represent the administration, but it is the faculty, staff, and students who make up NYU. Indeed, the lawyers still don’t seem to understand how the university they claim to represent works. One major sticking point is the inclusion of contract faculty in the Rory Meyers College of Nursing. The administration’s lawyers claim that their jobs are totally different from everyone else’s — despite the fact that multiple CFU members in Nursing have explained, at length, that they do the same work as the rest of us: teaching, research, advising, and (too much) service. 

Perhaps most tellingly, the administration and its lawyers want contract faculty who accept additional administrative or service work to be excluded from our bargaining unit, on the grounds that their titles make their jobs meaningfully different. We know better: contract faculty don’t stop being contract faculty when they agree to take on the essential extra work that allows our schools, programs and departments to function. We all deserve the protections of a collectively-bargained contract, and nothing prevents the NYU administration from recognizing all of us.  

Unlike the lawyers, we know how the university works. We’ve spent a lot of time explaining NYU to its own highly paid lawyers, but we’ve learned that they are much more easily persuaded by our public displays of power: every action we’ve staged over the past few months has led them to move. We can’t let up now, and we can’t accept a deal that unfairly carves out our nurse colleagues or our colleagues who have taken on additional administrative or service roles. 

So we’re doing what we’ve done all semester: coming together with our colleagues to show our power as the workers who make NYU possible.

This coming May Day — Monday, May 1 — we’ll be joining with workers across campus and with our colleagues from the New School to remind our respective administrations: it is students, staff, and faculty who make up our universities, and it is our work that makes NYU and the New School work.


Educating the NYU Administration

Last week, two dozen of us met with the NYU administration’s lawyers to discuss a fair process to verify that a majority of contract faculty support our union. We were eager to hear more about their proposal, but as the meeting went on, we found ourselves struggling to understand the substance of what they were actually proposing. They seemed largely unaware of the way our jobs are structured, and unable to answer basic questions about their reasoning. More troubling, they still couldn’t tell us how many contract faculty they thought should be included in our bargaining unit. 

We need a union because we are the only people who understand both the complexity of our work across different schools, and the many things we have in common, despite our strange and inconsistent titles. Our work makes the university work, and our institutional knowledge makes our work extremely valuable.

The lawyers seemed to agree. At the end of the meeting, they gave us a homework assignment: could we find out how our titles were structured across schools and share what we’d learned? The request was odd, given that they have access to our employment data, and we do not. Greater transparency is another important reason we’ve come together to form a union: when our grad and adjunct colleagues renegotiate their collective bargaining agreements, the NYU administration is required by law to disclose this data, so both parties have equal access to information. Until we win recognition for our union, we won’t have those legal rights or protections. 

We’re all glad that the NYU administration has agreed to work out a voluntary process, to avoid the lengthy process of filing for an election through the National Labor Relations Board. However, we can’t accept a proposal that neither we nor they understand, and we can’t take on additional uncompensated administrative work to cover their lack of preparation. We do enough service as it is.

The administration’s lawyers already have all the information they need to agree to our core demand: a fast, fair, and neutral process that will allow all contract faculty to vote in a union election. Neither we nor they need to prepare complex legal arguments about how our union should look, because we’re not doing this in an NLRB hearing. We’ve agreed to work this out among ourselves, as members of the same academic community, charged with upholding the same educational mission. If the administration isn’t engaging in good faith, we can appeal directly to the NYU community.

On that note, please mark your calendars: April 15-16 is Weekend on the Square, and the class of 2027 and their parents will be visiting campus to be welcomed by NYU leadership. If we haven’t made significant progress, we will take the opportunity to continue educating our community and our bosses about the important work we do.


Your Action is Bearing Fruit

Last week, you were visible with buttons and posters, you engaged your students, you turned out to picket Bobst, and you joined in with the rest of the New York City labor movement at the Triangle Fire Memorial. Most of all, you talked to your colleagues about why you want a union.

From Tandon to Wagner, from CAS to SPS, from Gallatin to Rory Meyers, from Courant to ISAW — and every school, institute, and department between — we told the NYU administration that we need a union and that we demand a fair, neutral, and expeditious process by which contract faculty across NYU can exercise our democratic right to collective bargaining.

We spoke strongly and loudly with our buttons, our handbills, our feet, and our voices. And we were joined by our students, our tenured and tenure-track colleagues, our unionized colleagues in ACT, GSOC, and UCATS, and brothers and sisters from unions across the city.

And the administration heard us.

On Friday, the administration’s outside lawyer Sandi Dubin wrote to us with what she called a “proposed framework.” In it, she offered a first draft of what the administration thinks our union should look like. This is a meaningful step forward in our campaign. While the administration’s proposal still leaves open a number of important questions, we are encouraged by their willingness to meet and it’s only the broad support of faculty across campus that has forced them to engage with us.

To be clear: the administration and its lawyers have not yet agreed to a fair, neutral, and expeditious process by which all NYU contract faculty can exercise their democratic choice to form a union. We cannot let up the pressure now. We must continue pushing them to do the right thing.

But the good news is that our solidarity across departments and schools, across the university, and across academia is unstoppable. We are winning.

Now is the time to get more involved in our union. Talk to your students about why a union is so important to our job security and their freedom to learn. Talk to your colleagues about why you’re excited to collectively bargain for an enforceable contract. Want to do more? Click here to get more involved, and one of us on the Organizing Committee will get in touch.


UPDATE – We met with NYU’s legal team, now…

UPDATE – We met with NYU’s legal team, now it’s time to take action!

I hope you’ve had a restful break — I haven’t, really, but I’m feeling pretty energized! My name is Elisabeth, and I’ve been organizing with our union for a long time. This week, we took a big step forward. I’m writing to ask that you join me in returning to campus on Monday, March 20, ready to take action.

Nearly a month ago, we delivered our petition asking the NYU administration to agree to a fair and expeditious process for verifying our union’s majority support. On Friday, March 10, as campus emptied out, they finally got in touch about a meeting. This Monday, March 13, we heard from two of NYU’s lawyers, Daniel Saperstein and Sandi Dubin. They proposed a meeting time — smack in the middle of Spring Break.

I suspect they were hoping we’d ask to postpone. When we replied that over twenty contract faculty from across NYU schools would be happy to join them, they may have felt a little outnumbered, because they added a few more guests: Matthew Varughese (another lawyer) and NYU Vice Provost Kris Day

Our contract faculty delegation opened by asking the same question that over 500 of us have been asking since we dropped off our petition on the twelfth floor of Bobst last month: Will the NYU administration respect our democratic right to collectively bargain and agree to a fair and expeditious process for verifying majority support of our union, Contract Faculty United – UAW? 

Rather than answering, Sandi Dubin had a question for us: Who would be included in our union?

We replied as we have consistently: all full-time continuing contract faculty employed in schools across NYU’s Manhattan and Brooklyn campuses, with the exception of the Schools of Law, Dentistry, and Medicine — the same basic footprint as ACT-UAW, the adjunct faculty union. We reminded her that a majority of contract faculty in this grouping have supported forming a union since 2020.

Sandi thanked us for clarifying. She said she would take our answer back to the decision-makers and let us know about next steps at some point in the future. As far as she was concerned, the meeting was over.

Over the next twenty minutes, contract faculty from across disciplines and NYU schools spoke up and urged Sandi to answer our original question. When she demurred, we pressed: When could we expect to hear from the decision-makers? Could the decision-makers join future meetings? Were there other points we could clarify now, to move this along? Had they failed to notice that we were asking for a fair and expeditious process? 

Faced with these questions and others, Sandi committed only to following up with a more precise estimate of when NYU leadership plans to answer our question.

To recap: we agreed to meet with the NYU administration on short notice, over Spring Break, hoping for a substantive response to a petition signed by a clear majority of NYU contract faculty — instead, we got a meeting that could have been an email.

Crucially, we didn’t get a “no.” Even though I was frustrated by Sandi’s insultingly obvious stall tactics, I left the meeting feeling really hopeful. If you followed the recent contract campaigns of NYU’s unionized part-time faculty (ACT-UAW) and grad workers (GSOC-UAW), you know that the NYU administration’s first move is almost always stalling. They’ve got deep pockets and a lot of lawyers, which means they’ll always try to drag things out, even when they’re unlikely to prevail in the long run.  

As NYC Comptroller Brad Lander emphasized when he spoke at our rally before the break, we’re asking for something so basic that it should be a foregone conclusion: “You should not have to bargain or organize or rally to demand a fair, neutral, non-interfered process!” In our first meeting with NYU’s team, we made clear that contract faculty aren’t going to passively accept the NYU administration’s attempts to stonewall and dismiss us, and we were effective. Sandi followed up yesterday, as promised, to say that we can expect a substantive response from NYU leadership next week.

Now is the time to take action. If we can keep up the pressure, we’ll be in an even stronger position. When we come back from Spring Break, will you join me and commit to building our union?

NYU contract faculty have been organizing since 2017, and a majority of us have been signed up in support of Contract Faculty United since 2020. We’ve waited long enough for NYU leadership to respect our democratic decision to come together and form a union. Next week, let’s take action and show them that we’re ready to win.

In solidarity,

Elisabeth Fay

Clinical Associate Professor, FAS


Student-faculty solidarity begins in your classroom

Student-faculty solidarity begins in your classroom

As members of NYU’s adjunct faculty, we were excited to learn that our contract faculty colleagues were unionizing. Last fall, our contract negotiations emphasized the importance of cultivating undergraduate solidarity. Talking to our own students is the best way we have to educate the NYU community. In my experience, students are often eager to learn more about how the university operates, and where their tuition money goes — and doesn’t go.

Next week, hopefully you’ll be wearing a CFU button to class, so students might ask about it. Even if they don’t, look for opportunities to open up an informal discussion at the beginning or end of class: “You may have heard that NYU contract faculty are forming a union. I’d like to talk about it, so that you know what that means, and why we’re doing it.”

Explain to them — or, better, get them to explain — what unions are, why they exist, and how they work. Sketch out some basic facts on the whiteboard:

  • Unions are democratic, self-governing organizations of workers. 
  • Unions equalize the power imbalance between managers and workers through collective bargaining, where workers negotiate as a group to secure better pay, benefits, and working conditions. By organizing in a union, workers gain power that they do not have as individuals in isolation from each other. When workers have power, it brings democracy to the workplace.
  • Basic workplace protections (the eight-hour workday, weekends, child labor laws, minimum wage, etc.) exist only because workers came together to form unions and fight for them. 
  • Thousands of NYU workers are union members: graduate TAs (GSOC-UAW), adjunct faculty (ACT-UAW), clerical staff (UCATS 3882, OPEIU 153), etc.

Students will likely already understand that non-profit universities like NYU are, in many respects, run exactly like any for-profit business: with a view to maximizing the margin between operating costs and revenue, which companies and universities do in large part by spending as little as possible on labor. However, because students don’t pay attention to our titles, they may not know that the NYU administration has been cutting costs by shifting more and more work onto adjunct and contract faculty in recent decades. 

The next part may be uncomfortable, but it’s important: students need to understand that our jobs are fundamentally insecure, and that we are often paid less than our tenured peers for doing more of the same work. One way to do this is just to explain what makes your job different from that of a tenure-track colleague in your school or department. You may worry that acknowledging this difference amounts to a loss of face in the eyes of your students — but the experience of unionized adjunct faculty and grad workers shows that students are much more likely to be indignant when they learn that the NYU administration is taking advantage of their teachers. 

Students shouldn’t be indignant only on our behalf, but also on their own. When faculty organize to protect our jobs and improve our working conditions, we’re not just acting in self-interest, we’re working to uphold NYU’s educational mission and defend academic freedom. Faculty insecurity has empowered the NYU administration to make unilateral decisions about the way we research and learn here, and administrators have chosen to charge more and more tuition each year, while diverting more and more of those dollars away from the actual work of teaching and learning. Those choices harm our students as much as they harm us.

If you like, you can let students know about two events next week: one is a teach-in organized by CLAWS, the student-led labor coalition on campus, on Thursday evening, 3/23, at 6pm; the other is the annual commemoration of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on Friday, 3/24, from 11-1:30. 

As teachers, we are always mindful of the power dynamics in our classrooms, and you may feel uncomfortable even suggesting that students take action on your behalf. It’s useful to emphasize that you’re not asking them to take or express an opinion on whether or not contract faculty should have a union. Rather, you’re making sure they’re informed about an important issue that affects their education, and explaining why you want the NYU administration to get out of the way of contract faculty’s democratic choice by agreeing to a fair process to decide the question.

As you continue to demand a fair and neutral process for recognizing your union, know that your adjunct colleagues are standing with you in solidarity. Talking openly with students about the conditions that prompted your organizing can help ensure that when it matters, they’re standing with you too.

In solidarity,

Gordon Beeferman
Andy Eicher
Charles Gelman
Jess Haskins
Darrel Alejandro Holnes
Marguerite Lukes
Colette Mazzucelli
David Palmer
Monica Panzarino
Judith Sloan
Proud members of ACT-UAW 7902