Monday marked the fifth day of a strike by unionized part-time faculty at the New School, which includes the Parsons School of Design, who walked out en masse following the expiration of their contract on November 16.
According to a statement by the union organizing the action, A.C.T.-U.A.W. Local 7902, those faculty will continue the strike until they are offered a new contract with “meaningful wage increases, no cuts to healthcare, and third-party protection from harassment and discrimination.”
More than 1,300 active adjunct professors—some 80 percent of the teaching faculty at the New York school—are participating in the strike. A statement announced ahead of the planned action cited the university’s “intransigence at the bargaining table,” with a major point of contention being the salary discrepancy between part-time faculty and administrators. Despite comprising an overwhelming percentage of the school’s workforce, their salaries represent only 8.5 percent of the school’s budget.
“Part-time faculty play a vitally important role in the New School community, and we look forward to reaching a fair and equitable agreement that works for everyone,” the university’s administration said in a statement. “We deeply respect our part-time faculty and remain committed to a renewal agreement that provides competitive compensation, exceptional benefits, and protected time off.”
Faculty at the New School have been part of United Auto Workers Local 7902 since 2005 and last concluded contract negotiations in 2014. That contract expired in 2019 but was extended because of the pandemic with the consent of both sides. Faculty have not received a raise in 4 years and have asked for a 10 percent wage increase. The union rejected the 3.5 percent wage increase the university offered, saying the figure does not accommodate rising inflation in New York City and the generally higher cost of living.
“Nobody would do this for what the New School is offering in terms of pay,” Zoe Carey, president of the union chapter and a PhD candidate at the university, said in a statement to Inside Higher Ed. “[Teaching at the New School] is really a labor of love.”
Last week, the provost’s office at the New School released a Google doc with guidelines for students and faculty, encouraging them to “follow the syllabus requirements for their courses even if their faculty choose to honor the strike by not teaching and/or meeting their classes.” Some students have joined the demonstration outside the school’s flagship building near Union Square in Manhattan.
Adjunct faculty at the New School joined a wave of protests over stagnant wages and job insecurity. In November, unionized adjunct faculty at New York University voted to strike but reached a contract agreement only hours before the expiration of their contract. Last week, academic employee groups in four separate bargaining units represented by the UAW at the University of California went on strike to protest low wages.
“Our struggle at The New School is part of a larger movement across the country,” the union wrote on Twitter today. “It’s about more than a pay raise. We need a paradigm shift. R-E-S-P-E-C-T… Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions. Our democracy needs an educated public. Those are the stakes.”