New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New School student workers fighting for union recognition

Hundreds of non-unionized student workers at the university are calling for recognition under its student worker union.
Alex Tey
The non-academic student worker committee at The New School filed for recognition from the school’s union for academic student workers. (Alex Tey for WSN)

A group of hundreds of student workers at The New School are calling for the university to consider them union employees after being excluded from the school’s existing student union, SENS-UAW.

The group’s monthslong efforts for recognition under the existing union culminated in a petition filed with the National Labor Relations Board in August. The New Student Workers Union — the group at The New School representing the 900 student workers outside of SENS-UAW — has been asking to be included in the existing union since March.

SENS-UAW is a part of ACT-UAW Local 7902, the union representing adjunct faculty at NYU and part-time faculty at The New School. Currently, SENS-UAW only represents academic student workers, such as teaching assistants, research assistants and tutors. The New School has refused to allow non-academic student workers — which include resident advisers, lab technicians and tour guides — to join the group, but has said it supports their right to form a union of their own.

Full-day NLRB hearings between The New School and NewSWU, which are taking place over Zoom, began on Aug. 25 and are on track to continue through the rest of this week, according to Local 7902 president Zoe Carey. The result of these hearings will determine whether or not NewSWU will be recognized under SENS-UAW.

According to a Aug. 23 Local 7902 press release, The New School claimed the student workers represented by NewSWU “are not employees under the common-law test” — a test that determines whether a relationship exists between the worker and employer under the National Labor Relations Act.

“They are often underpaid, paid late and even unpaid,” union organizer Molly Ragan wrote in the press release. “The New School’s statement is a clear attempt to silence student workers, who form the backbone workforce of the institution.”

Current salaries for NewSWU workers can range from $15 to $21, with most students making minimum wage. According to the SENS-UAW contract, student workers were paid between $17 and $44 an hour for the 2022-23 academic year.

The New School spokesperson Amy Malsin said that the university supports NewSWU’s right to unionize, but is concerned by its petition to be recognized under SENS-UAW. 

“Non-academic student workers, who may work as orientation leaders or at the university’s New Store, do not have the same type of roles and responsibilities as academic workers and therefore would be better served by representation by a distinct union bargaining unit,” Malsin said. 

SENS-UAW’s original 2017 contract with The New School ended at midnight on Aug. 31, leading to negotiations for its second collective bargaining agreement with The New School. Carey said that SENS-UAW members will continue to benefit from the protections in the current contract until a new agreement is reached.

The union does not intend to strike at this time, and the contract expiration will have no effect on NewSWU’s unionization efforts, according to Carey.

Last fall, part-time faculty at The New School held the longest adjunct faculty strike in U.S. history, which resulted in increased compensation and expanded health care benefits. During and following the strike, NewSWU members protested on campus in solidarity.

Emily Li, a NewSWU member and a student worker at its Making Center — a student space containing printers, wood shops and art studios —  said they are paid $15 per hour. Li said they are concerned about employee health and safety in the space, as some responsibilities require the use of potentially dangerous equipment, including saws and blades. Li hopes that NewSWU’s NLRB complaint is successful so that they have better health care protections in case of an accident.

“We deserve the same protections that the full-time technicians in the space have,” Li said. “These hearings could affect the state of what it means to be an undergraduate student worker and the state of student work recognized as work nationwide.”

Contact Yezen Saadah at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Yezen Saadah, Deputy Managing Editor
Yezen Saadah is a sophomore studying cinema studies, journalism and Middle Eastern studies. He's a lover of cinema, history, art and literature, and he enjoys writing about pretty much anything. If he isn't in the newsroom or at the movies, he's probably just trying to enjoy his day off. Contact him on Instagram @yezen.saadah, Twitter @yezen_saadah and — most importantly — Letterboxd @Yezen, or just send tips to [email protected].
Alex Tey, Editor-at-Large
Alex Tey was previously WSN’s editor-in-chief. She is now at large. Watch out!

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