Editorial: NYU’s adjunct union tentative contract shouldn’t have taken this long
NYU and its adjunct union have finally reached a tentative agreement, but it took a threat to strike to get there.
Nov 2, 2022
The union representing NYU’s adjunct faculty, ACT-UAW Local 7902, finally reached a tentative contract with the university early Tuesday morning after six months of negotiations, two 30-day contract extensions and a final bargaining session that lasted 15 hours. Members of the union will vote on the contract in the coming weeks — a necessary condition for the agreement to be ratified. The new contract promises higher compensation, more health care coverage and other employment benefits.
The bargaining teams reached an agreement a little after 3 a.m., three hours after the union’s contract officially expired. Before that, it had been extended twice, for 30 days each, because the two sides could not come to an agreement. Additionally, last week, 95% of the union’s membership voted to authorize a strike if the contract expired on Monday — that strike could have begun yesterday.
It took the authorization of a strike for NYU to agree to some of the union’s demands.
One of the union’s main demands was better pay, as it argued that the current pay did not accurately reflect the amount of time adjuncts spend working. Specifically, it demanded what adjuncts called an “administrative hour” to account for all the time that they spend working with students outside of class time — that is, outside of their “contact hours.” In the old contract, faculty earned $149.25 per working hour per class. The union estimated that for each paid hour, adjuncts worked an additional 3.35 hours unpaid, which made their effective hourly wage roughly $34.
Considering New York City’s cost of living alone, that’s not enough. Adjuncts don’t work full-time and have to work elsewhere because they can’t afford to only have one job. They’re also considered scholars in their fields, which most likely means it took years of education — not to mention student loan debt, to get them where they are.
In addition, because of the pandemic, students are more reliant on their professors and need additional help — so, the union argued that the professors should be better paid. For those reasons, the adjunct union did not want to concede on better pay during bargaining. It costs NYU more money to pay professors, so it’s safe to assume that the university’s bargaining team didn’t want to concede on better pay either.
Yet, both sides wanted to avoid a strike since it wouldn’t have benefited either group. Adjuncts would lose money. The United Auto Workers, the parent union that organizes NYU’s adjuncts, usually offers workers strike pay starting on the eighth day of a strike, but it’s only $400 a week — not enough to be an incentive. In addition, adjunct faculty make up 54% of NYU’s teaching staff, which means that they would not be teaching classes, answering emails, grading assignments or holding one-on-one meetings with students. A strike likely would have brought university activities to a halt.
The only reason that the adjuncts were ready to strike was that their voices weren’t being heard. To some extent, their threat worked.
Adjuncts will now be paid $10,400 for a standard four-credit course, instead of the $6,268.50 from the previous contract, according to their website.
“With landmark pay increases across the full spectrum of adjunct instructors, NYU adjuncts now stand among the highest paid unionized contingent instructors in the nation,” it reads.
More details of the contract will be released once union members ratify it, but both sides seem to be content.
“The university is pleased to have reached agreement on a tentative accord with UAW Local 7902,” NYU spokesperson John Beckman wrote to WSN on Tuesday.
The tentative agreement is a great step forward for everyone involved, but the adjunct faculty should not have had to resort to the threat of a strike just to reach it. They deserved to have their voices heard long before.
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