‘We’ll be back’: Contract faculty continue fight for unionization 

Supporters of the contract faculty union gathered in front of Bobst Library for the third time since February to demand that NYU support their unionization effort.


Qianshan Weng

Members of NYU’s contract faculty union rallied in front of Bobst Library on March 23 to demand that the university recognize their union. (Qianshan Weng for WSN)

Bruna Horvath, Deputy News Editor

Dozens of students, faculty and other supporters of the contract faculty unionization effort at NYU picketed in front of Bobst Library on Thursday to demand university recognition. Attendees held up signs and shouted their demands while marching in front of the library doors, and many passersby joined the group. The sound of drums, tambourines and cowbells could be heard from Washington Square Park.

Contract faculty at NYU are untenured, full-time professors whose contracts are renewed every few years. This group consists of about 1,000 faculty members, who make up nearly a fourth of all professors at the university. Contract Faculty United, the union seeking to represent contract faculty, is demanding a fair collective bargaining process, established grievance procedures for contract faculty terminations, and the establishment of annual raises that reflect inflation.​

“We are going to continue to exert pressure,” said Jacob Remes, a member of the union’s organizing committee and a clinical associate professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. “We’re going to continue to be loud. We’re going to continue to build power in our schools and departments, and across the university, and across the city — and we’re going to keep fighting.”

Last week, 20 members of the union met with the administration’s lawyers to try to form a collective bargaining unit — a group of employees who seek to be represented by a single union. At the meeting, union representatives explained their demands. In a written statement to the union, administrators committed to notifying the union of the steps they will take, according to university spokesperson John Beckman. NYU has not yet officially committed to supporting unionization efforts.

Remes said that over spring break, administrators gave the union two days’ notice of the meeting and did not address all of the group’s concerns. He added that the union is still waiting for a more concrete response from the university that outlines the next steps it will take.

“We were very pleased to have a conversation with them,” Remes said. “We are glad that they are hearing us — they are not yet listening to us.”

Other groups of university employees, such as adjunct professors, have successfully entered collective bargaining processes with NYU in the past. Unlike contract faculty, adjuncts typically work part time and must renew their contracts each semester. ACT-UAW Local 7902, the union representing adjunct faculty at the university, was able to secure a new tentative contract with the university that included improved wages, better health coverage, and other benefits in November of last year. The agreement, which will last for the next six years, narrowly avoided a strike that was authorized days before.

Elisabeth Fay, a CAS professor and union organizer, said that although the meeting was an important step toward reaching an agreement, there is still substantial progress to be made.

“We are hopeful that we’ll hear from the NYU administration this week,” Fay said. “But in the meantime, we’re out here to let the NYU community know that a majority of contract faculty have supported the union since 2020. And we’re still waiting for the NYU administration to do the right thing, and we’re hoping to make some noise that they can hear on the 12th floor of Bobst.”

At its last rally, the union gave the university seven days to respond to their list of demands. On March 10, in an email to the union, President Hamilton asked for more time to respond.

“We respect the contributions that full-time continuing contract faculty make to NYU and its academic mission,” the email reads. “A representative for the University will be contacting you shortly to find a time when you are available to discuss the letter and consider ways in which we might move forward.”

Contact Bruna Horvath at [email protected]