Adjunct faculty begin negotiations for new union contract

Supporters marched in solidarity with ACT-UAW Local 7902, the union representing adjunct faculty at NYU, as they begin negotiations with the university over their next contract.

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Sam Tu

The rally was held during the union’s first bargaining session for a new contract with the university administration. (Staff Photo by Sam Tu)

Gillian Blum, Copy Chief

ACT-UAW Local 7902, the union representing members of NYU’s adjunct faculty, began negotiations with the university for their next collective bargaining agreement. Faculty and students marched in a rally between Washington Square Park and Union Square in support of the union on Thursday, April 14, the first day of negotiations.

The union’s current agreement with the university came into effect five years ago and is set to expire at the end of August. The previous contract covered compensation, insurance coverage, course assignments, and other terms of employment for adjunct faculty — who are not normally eligible for tenure and must have their employment contracts regularly renewed by the university.

As they marched, the group chanted in support of raising adjunct wages, improving healthcare and providing fair compensation for extra work during the pandemic, which includes preparing for online classes. The rally was co-sponsored by several campus organizations, including the university’s chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America and NYU’s Contract Faculty Union.

“Coming out of two years of teaching in COVID-19, whether it was pushed into Zoom, or stuck in Zoom, or forced back onto campus, we have done our best in terms of the good teaching we do for students,” said Cate Fallon, a Tisch adjunct and union official. “In bargaining our contract, we are now coming to the university, saying ‘We went the extra mile — or two, or three, or four — and we want compensation.’”

Protesters gathered around the fountain at Washington Square Park holding signs and loudspeakers.
NYU faculty and students marched from Washington Square Park to Union Square on April 14 in support of ACT-UAW Local 7902, NYU’s adjunct faculty union. (Staff Photo by Sam Tu)

At Washington Square Park, attendees were given buttons, signs and flyers. NYU YDSA’s coalition coordinator, Alexandra Chan, and campaign coordinator Karishma Chari, both CAS students, helped lead the crowd and teach the chants with Kay Gabriel, a part-time faculty member at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. (Chan previously worked as WSN’s managing editor.)

“We wanted to have a rally that is in support of our demands and as a way to come together and to say ‘We’re here, we want respect, we want recognition by the university,’” said Lizzie Olesker, an adjunct faculty member in the Tisch open arts department and the union’s second vice president.

Under the union’s current contract, adjunct faculty are paid primarily for the time they spend teaching classes, despite the other responsibilities they have outside of the classroom. These tasks include one-on-one meetings with students and lesson plan preparation, which many said have been more time-consuming with virtual classes. 

“We look forward to negotiating with the union at the bargaining table to reach agreement on a fair contract that appropriately honors the contributions of our adjunct faculty members,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman said.

Protesters walk down University Place holding a large blue sign.
The protesters also marched outside the offices of NYU’s human resources department, where the negotiations were taking place. (Staff Photo by Sam Tu)

CAS sophomore Erin Lawson, also a member of NYU YDSA, voiced her support of the union.

“We believe that our teachers’ working conditions are our learning conditions,” Lawson said. “When they feel they aren’t respected by the university, we feel that too when we are in the classroom with them. It’s really important for undergrads to show solidarity with their teachers so that they feel supported by us in the same way they support us all the time.”

After a series of speeches in Union Square, the group gathered outside of the building housing NYU’s human resources department, where the contract negotiations were taking place. They stood behind glass windows, where they were able to look into the negotiation room.

We believe that our teachers’ working conditions are our learning conditions.”

— Erin Lawson, CAS sophomore and NYU YDSA member

Non-adjunct faculty, including Elisabeth Fay, a clinical associate professor in NYU’s expository writing program, attended the rally to support the adjuncts’ contract effort. Fay is also an organizer at the Contract Faculty Union, which is currently not recognized by NYU.

“Adjunct faculty carried NYU through the pandemic,” Fay said. “NYU owes those adjunct faculty. They deserve fair compensation for their work and more respect from the university.”

The second negotiation session between the union’s bargaining committee and the university will take place on April 19. Bargaining will likely continue through the summer, according to Fallon.

“We will meet until we get a contract that we believe the members will support,” Fallon said.

Contact Gillian Blum at [email protected]