The 2017 ACT-UAW Local 7902 Year-in-Review
from Local President Emily Barnett
In my 2016 Year-in-Review I began by noting that we were looking at some daunting challenges ahead. Those challenges have been made painfully clear as the Trump administration continues to undermine our lives as citizens and workers.
While our Local has been involved in efforts to push back against the erosion of our rights and hard fought gains, we want to take time to celebrate our 15th anniversary, our gains for adjuncts and part-time faculty, and a new addition to our union.
First and foremost, we are thrilled to welcome into our Local a new unit, SENS (Student Employees New School) who include Teaching Fellows, Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Course Assistants, Tutors and other workers. They were victorious in a difficult three-year fight to win union recognition overcoming daunting obstacles put forth by The New School. That struggle culminated in a towering 99% YES vote on unionization by the student workers, and we are finally sitting with the SENS Bargaining Team negotiating for a Collective Bargaining Agreement with The New School administration. This will be a first contract so there are many issues on the table. The student workers, who work hard at their jobs while being underpaid and underserved by the university, deserve a just and fair contract.
On the NYU side, backed by strong support from NYU adjuncts, and building on our previous contract, ACT-UAW Local 7902 was able to achieve substantial gains in the third contract with the university. We won increases in compensation, expanded eligibility for subsidized health insurance, and an increase in grant amounts for the Professional Development Fund beginning in the 2018/2019 academic year. We were also able to expand the contract benefits to include compensation for course development and course conversion from in-person to online.
At The New School we protested the implementation of the phishing scam email, and pushed the university to send an apology to the Part-time faculty. Many of the faculty agreed with us that using the subject line that “disciplinary action awaits you”, in an email sent by the university as a ploy to have us open the email, was intolerable and unjustified.
At both universities we continue, as always, to work on a multitude of issues, grievances, and arbitrations, to support our members and insure that the Collective Bargaining Agreements are being upheld. As curriculums undergo change, we want to do everything possible to minimize fallout for our members.
On a very bright note, the Local hosted a party to celebrate our 15th anniversary and took the opportunity to honor both the past activists who founded our Local, and our new activists at SENS who have helped carry that legacy forward. Stories from the early days were shared by Scott Sommer, former UAW Sub-Regional Director for our Region 9A, June Benjamin, former UAW International Servicing Rep for our Local, and of course, Julie Kushner, current Director of UAW Region 9A. Julie was instrumental in achieving the first ground-breaking contract at NYU and continues to be a strong supporter of our Local.
While we worked to keep our union strong and growing, the politics of the Trump administration led us to actively engage in efforts to counter the implementation of a seemingly endless march of regressive policies. Among many efforts, we participated with students in an Anti-Islamophobia march in January, supported efforts to push NYU and The New School to declare both as sanctuary campuses, and filled buses to the Climate March and the March for Science in Washington DC earlier this year. Many of our members helped to fill the streets at the Women’s March on Washington and the sister march in New York City on January 21st.
Our Local participated in Region 9A’s efforts to help our brothers and sisters recover from the hurricane in Puerto Rico. The UAW Puerto Rico Relief Fund raised over $22,000 from our Region and contributed items to a ship bringing needed supplies to the island. We remain engaged in those relief efforts to help our UAW sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico through this ordeal.
While unionization efforts in academia are spreading nation-wide, administrations are adamantly resisting. Here in New York City, grad workers at Columbia are involved in a difficult fight with an administration that refuses to recognize election results and negotiate a contract. Members of the Local and I traveled earlier this year to Massachusetts to support a rally for the UMass Lowell adjuncts in a difficult fight for a fair contract.
The Trump administration is pursuing a relentless campaign to inflict damage on unions and workers. Their latest salvo, in the works at this very moment, is to revoke the requirement that management provide lists of workers to unions for election purposes. Other anti-union efforts include the placement of anti-union people in the judiciary as well as on the National Labor Relations Board, both of which have the potential to weaken unions.
We welcome volunteers to help us with ongoing efforts to organize new faculty. Let us know if you have a few extra hours to pitch in. We would be happy to see you at the union office!
We wish everyone a wonderful holiday break, and hope to return recharged for the work ahead.