credit: ACT-UAW Local 7902

A 25 day strike and a subsequent occupation over the last several days, which had threatened to leave The New School’s roughly 10,000 students and over 1,000 faculty in limbo over the holidays, has ended after a tentative agreement was reached late last night between TNS (which includes the College of Performing Arts: Mannes School of Music, the School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and the School of Drama) and the ACT-UAW Local 7902, the union of the university’s part-time faculty.

The action was the longest strike by adjunct college faculty in U.S. history and part of an increasing trend in worker uprisings at U.S. colleges and universities this year.

According to a post on the union’s strike update website “You Are The New School”, the agreement represents what part-time faculty are calling “significant achievements” for the teachers who make up about 87% of the school’s faculty. Union members say the agreement includes:

  1. Substantial raises, with the largest raises going to faculty currently paid at the lowest rates.
  2. Payment for the work we perform as teachers outside of the classroom.
  3. Expanded healthcare eligibility to faculty teaching one course, no hikes to our out-of-pocket health insurance costs, and caps to annual premium increases.
  4. Stronger job security for long-time faculty and newer faculty alike.
  5. Paid family leave, a professional development fund, and much more.

The union issued a joint statement with The New School on the agreement:

“We are extremely pleased to announce that ACT-UAW Local 7902 and The New School have reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement. This is a strong, fair, five-year contract that increases compensation significantly, protects health care benefits, and ensures that part-time faculty are paid for additional work done outside the classroom to support our students.

The union leadership will unanimously recommend this agreement to its members, and it will now go to part-time faculty union members for a ratification vote over the next few days. In the meantime, the union has ended the strike and all university classes and events will resume as scheduled effective immediately.

We want to share our sincere gratitude to the members of both the union and university bargaining teams for their dedication and tireless work, and to our mediator, Commissioner William Domini, for helping both sides get to this agreement. Now, together, we can return to our mission of teaching, learning, creating, and supporting our students.”

In recent days, a group of striking faculty, students, and supporters of the strike, which began on November 16, had begun occupying the university’s Student Center as the university threatened to cut worker pay, stop contributing to health care premiums, and sought out replacements to grade student work. Notable musicians, performers, designers, and authors announced they would boycott all TNS events as stories from part-time faculty at the school described extremely low-pay and other poor working conditions. One of the final points of contention between the union and the university was the demand that a fairer and lower cost healthcare plan be made available for faculty.

On Saturday at a New School for Social Research Town Hall attended by staff, students, and faculty, a vote of no confidence was heard regarding the administration of TNS President Dwight McBride, as well as a vote of no confidence in the school’s Board of Trustees. McBride has been criticized in recent weeks after it was reported that his annual salary is well over $1 million and one of his job perks as president of the university is living rent-free in a West Village townhome provided by the university.

A revealing analysis entitled “What Can The University Pay?” published this past month by TNS Economics Professor Sanjay Reddy described the extent of the school’s budget discrepancies over the last several years between increased administration pay and costs and the portion of the budget that is allocated toward part-time faculty compensation.

Hundreds of frustrated parents, some of whose students are set to graduate this December, and others whose final projects and performances had been put on hold indefinitely, had begun to seek out out legal counsel to draft a class-action lawsuit against the school to recoup tuition payments due to the protracted ordeal.