Study shows union membership on the rise in New York region

Two CUNY School of Professional Studies professors recently released their yearly report on the state of unions in the United States. The study’s authors, Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce, said despite the steady decline in union membership in previous years, the appearance of unions in the workforce is beginning to rise in the New York City area.

“New York ranks first in union density among the nation’s fifty states, with a unionization rate more than double the U.S. average of 11.3 percent in 2013-14,” the study reads.

NYU professor Andrew Ross said this trend of union density is reflected at NYU, as NYU has had a gradual increase in non-instructional union since 2000 across four of NYU’s five unions. However, Ross added that there has been resistance to membership expansion in the fifth union.

“[The Graduate Student Organizing Committee-United Auto Workers], the graduate employee union, won the right to collective bargaining in 2000,” Ross said in an email. “That right has been bitterly contested ever since by the administration, and, despite the recognition of the union for the second time last fall, GSOC members still don’t have a contract.”


Ross also said incidents like these indicated that NYU’s administration has been unfriendly toward unions. 

“From what I know, the Sexton administration is often quite intransigent at the bargaining table, and, through its high-profile resistance to the establishment of GSOC, acquired the reputation of being a union-buster,” Ross said. 

NYU spokesman John Beckman, however, challenged Ross’s characterizations, pointing to the more amicable dealings NYU has had with unions.

“That quote is just inaccurate,” Beckman said. “In the first place, let’s remember that NYU has several thousand employees in five unions with which it has repeatedly successfully negotiated contracts through the years.”

Beckman added that NYU did not challenge the unionization effort of its adjunct faculty. Beckman also said NYU contacted their union to reach an agreement to recognize a bargaining unit for graduate students who teach and has continued to meet with their union and bargain in good faith. 

While the state of unions at NYU is still discussed, Milkman is not confident in the longevity of the trend at this point, despite all indications that there is a resurgence in unions throughout the state of New York and specifically New York City.

“[It’s] too soon to know what the jump in unionization means for the long run,” Milkman said. “In the short run it reflects the growth of employment in long-unionized sectors, especially construction, that declined after the 2008 crash.”

Additional reporting by John Ambrosio.

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Sept. 4 print edition. Email John Ambrosio and Erika Buzzell at [email protected] 




  1. If NYU’s admin did not challenge the unionization of adjunct faculty, why did they have to go on strike? Why did the admin send out mass emails to the entire student body deploring GSOC during the strike? Why did the admin arrest their own grad students protesting for union recognition outside Bobst? What world is John Beckman living in?


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