Negotiations between the New School and its part-time professors broke down on Sunday, but teachers and their supporters gathered in large numbers on Monday, the sixth day of the strike.
The new school compromised on several key demands from teachers in a “final offer” on Sunday – even as it said it would continue to bargain. But the union was unhappy, accusing the university of abandoning a bargaining process that had lasted more than five months.
The correspondence faculty had the first called a strike Nov. 16 after failing to reach a contractual agreement with the university. The two sides still disagree on terms related to workplace protections and compensation.
While several New School faculty and students have expressed frustration at the breakdown in talks, the recent standoff has spurred organizers and supporters to continue the strike and bring more energy to the lively picket line.
“I’m willing to stay here as long as it takes for them to move forward, especially on wages and health care, which are the two big ones,” said Brice Garrett, an adjunct professor at The New School’s Parsons School. Design, talking to WSN at the picket on Monday. “I feel very active today, with really a lot of energy – much more than when I was here last week.”
On Monday, picketing moved from its usual location in front of the University Center building, and a second line formed across Fifth Avenue. Passing cars honked their horns in support, while students and teachers chanted, drummed and clapped. One of the participants tap-danced in the middle of a row of placard-wielding protesters.
In its “latest proposal” presented Sunday, The New School proposed a 7% salary increase this year and a 2.5% increase in subsequent years, better access to health care and contributions to a faculty pension fund. The union said the proposal is not enough, noting that part-time teachers have not received a raise since 2018 — meaning compensation increases will average about 1.8% per year until the new contract expires. Other unionized university employees, including librarians, were also said to have secured incremental pay increases of two to three percent.
“The New School has decided that it is no longer willing to negotiate in good faith with the part-time faculty and is instead seeking to reach an agreement with unacceptable concessions,” union leadership said in a Nov. 21 statement. “That’s why the union will continue the strike.”
The university asked the union to review the proposal and provide a response by noon Tuesday.
“Please be aware that we have deployed and utilized all available resources to present a proposal that reflects our deep respect for part-time faculty,” The New School said in a statement. “Importantly, we believe this proposal will also allow the university to fulfill its commitment to the entire community by continuing to provide an exceptional educational experience for our students.”
Molly Ragan, an adjunct professor at The New School who previously attended the university as a graduate student and assistant professor, said the university’s proposal ignores many of the union’s top demands.
“We need them to recognize that it’s about the numbers for us, but it’s also about the structures that they have in place in our old contracts that really need to be changed,” Ragan said. “We need them to think bigger and they don’t.”
Ragan was often present at pickets after the strike began. She said the day after the “final offer” was issued, she felt more energized than ever.
“We really built something here, and the university can’t suppress that,” she said Monday. “We have a lot of power here. It’s great to see so many people behind them.”
Most classes at The New School have not been in session since the strike began, although students said some full-time teachers who are not participating in the strike are still holding Zoom classes or organizing field trips outside the classroom.
Vic Walsh, a student at The New School, emphasized that the part-time faculty had a huge impact on their university experience. They said they are aware of the difficult working conditions faculty often face at the university and are motivated to continue supporting the movement by attending pickets instead of classes.
“I really care about my adjunct faculty,” Walsh said. “I’m glad that at least something can happen now. It’s very important that we get out here and make some noise.”
Last month, an NYU faculty member — also part of the same union, ACT-UAW Local 7902 — won a “memorable” preliminary contract with the university, receiving better compensation, broader health benefits and job guarantees. The agreement was reached between NYU and its administration after months of negotiations, two contract extensions, a near-strike and a final marathon bargaining session that lasted until 3 a.m. — three hours after the union’s previous contract officially expired.
[Read more: Adjunct union reaches tentative contract with NYU]
Several faculty members at The New School pickets cited successes won by NYU adjuncts this year, calling on their university to honor certain contractual agreements — specifically, compensation for overtime work.
“We’re hoping that the New School administration will hear right away at NYU that we’re getting paid for extracurriculars,” said Annie Levin, a staff union organizer who also worked on contract negotiations with NYU. “We have third-party arbitration for harassment and discrimination cases, and those are standard, normal things for part-time teacher unions across the country. The new school must wake up.”
The New School strike continues as nearly 50,000 workers at 10 schools in the University of California system enter their second week the largest strike of scientific workers in the country. The nationwide trend of organizing unions and strikes is also spreading to other industries More than 250 employees at HarperCollins are on strike as of November 10. Also more than 100 unionized Starbucks saw the strikes last thursdaywhich falls on one of the network’s busiest days — Red Cup Day, which marks the start of the holiday season.
Contact Abby Wilson at [email protected]