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

Course assistants to receive $1.7 million in missing back pay

NYU recently finalized a yearslong grievance with its graduate student union, which demanded over $1 million in backdated hourly pay for hundreds of course assistants.
Alexandra Chan
File photo: Students at GSOC strike in April 2021. NYU assistants are set to receive over $1 million back pay as negotiations between NYU and GSOC finalize. (Alexandra Chan for WSN)

NYU’s graduate student union announced that it resolved an outstanding grievance with the university last week, granting over 600 course assistants more than $1 million in missing back pay. 

The union — GSOC-UAW Local 2110 — reached a settlement agreement with NYU in summer 2022, which was finalized on Aug. 31. In the agreement, the university committed to distributing a calculated $1.3 million in backdated hourly pay for course assistants who worked between spring 2021 and spring 2022. 

The settlement was in response to a grievance GSOC filed in June 2021, which claimed course assistants at the time were not being paid in accordance with the union’s contract with the university. Course assistants at NYU typically work 10 to 20 hours per week grading classwork, replying to emails and running administrative errands. 

The figure, which the university aims to distribute by Oct. 16, was increased to around $1.7 million after the union raised concerns over NYU’s initial calculations. Colin Vanderburg, a third-year Ph.D. student and union representative, said the university finalized its calculations this June after lengthy deliberation with the union. 

“We identified hundreds of thousands of dollars that were missing from NYU’s original calculations,” Vanderburg said. “We also shared the calculations with the affected workers and former course assistants who were part of the agreements, and they also identified issues. We sent those new numbers back to NYU and now, cumulatively, the new total is over $1.7 million.”

This April, union members wrote a petition to NYU president Linda Mills, former president Andrew Hamilton and other university administrators claiming that NYU violated the 2022 settlement agreement by withholding back pay funds from its course assistants. 

University spokesperson John Beckman said NYU was pleased to have come to an agreement with the union. 

“This matter involved some significant complexities,” Beckman said. “The expectation is that they will receive the pay in the second half of this month. NYU welcomes this outcome and the resolution of this issue.” 

While GSOC’s contract includes a $26 minimum wage for work completed in the 2020-21 academic year, course assistants working between spring 2021 and spring 2022 were paid a $3,500 stipend at the end of each semester, amounting to a lower hourly wage than stipulated in the contract. In accordance with the contract — which was ratified in June 2021 — the course assistants who worked during that period will receive compensation based on the current hourly rate for the 2023-24 academic year, which is $28.25.

Yeji Lee, a first-year Ph.D. student and GSOC representative, said they were involved in several meetings with university administrators over the summer concerning the grievance. Lee said they worked with other union representatives to confirm the specific amount of pay for each of the hundreds of course assistants who were affected. 

“NYU had stalled our finalization multiple times,” Lee said. “When we asked questions about how some of these calculations were being done — because our calculations did not match in June — they spent months stalling on the answer. Ultimately, we were able to get close to accurate for most workers, but we regret how much NYU delayed this whole process.”

Vanderburg said that the petition and constant back-and-forth dialogues between GSOC and NYU helped the union place pressure on the university and see the overdue settlement come to fruition. 

“We were just caught in this waiting game of pressing NYU. They were dragging their feet for months and months, and, ultimately, years,” Vanderburg said. “This is a huge victory. It just reinforces further that NYU never does these things unless they’re pushed through collective action.”

Contact Yezen Saadah at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Yezen Saadah
Yezen Saadah, Editor-in-Chief
Yezen Saadah is a junior 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 or send tips to [email protected]
Alexandra Chan
Alexandra Chan, Editor-at-Large
Alexandra Chan is a junior studying history, politics and East Asian studies. She has done her time in the basement dungeon state of mind and can't really seem to let go. Follow her @noelle.png on Instagram for inconsistent posting but aesthetically pleasing rows. She doesn't know what Twitter is.

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