‘Solidarity Works!’ Adjunct Strike Ends at The New School After Deal Reached

By Jessica Corbett. Originally published at Common Dreams:

Labor rights advocates nationwide celebrated after part-time faculty at the New School in New York City reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with the higher education institution late Saturday, ending a strike that has spanned more than three weeks.

“Collective action and worker solidarity wins!”

“WE WON! We won our fair contract,” tweeted Natasha Lennard, a columnist at The Intercept who also teaches at the school. “Strikes work!! Solidarity works!!!”

Other instructors, students, and groups—from a union at Rutgers University in New Jersey to the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO—welcomed the development as a win for workers.

As The New York Times summarized: “The sizable walkout had left the school at a near standstill. Classes were paused because nearly 90% of the faculty is made up of untenured adjunct professors and lecturers. The school had also been facing a lawsuit from irate parents, who had threatened to withhold payment or force their children to transfer to other institutions. Some had called for the school’s president, Dwight A. McBride, to resign.”

The ACT-UAW Local 7902 represents about 2,600 part-time faculty at the school, including about 1,500 who are teaching this semester but walked off the job on November 16. The union’s bargaining committee unanimously endorsed the new deal, which must now be ratified by members.

The union committee and school said in a joint statement that “this is a strong, fair, five-year contract that increases compensation significantly, protects healthcare benefits, and ensures that part-time faculty are paid for additional work done outside the classroom to support our students.”

“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,” the statement added. “Now, together, we can return to our mission of teaching, learning, creating, and supporting our students.”

Lennard called the members of the union’s bargaining committee “superheroes,” expressed her excitement about returning to the classroom with her students, and said that “their solidarity has been amazing.”

The action—which came amid a wave of labor organizing across the country—was the longest adjunct strike in U.S. history, according to Teen Vogue news and politics editor Lexi McMenamin, who recently completed a master’s program at the university.

“The New School self-describes as a ‘progressive university,‘ and it’s that quality that has attracted many of its students and workers, past and present—myself included,” McMenamin reported Thursday. “Those following the strike have expressed disgust at university messaging that used the language of scholars such as bell hooks to defend its resistance to bargaining with the union.”

Students on Thursday began occupying the New School’s University Center after the institution announced earlier in the week that it was cutting off wages and contributions to health insurance and retirement benefits for striking teachers. The Student Faculty Solidarity group said on Instagram that “we do not take occupation lightly, but the New School has left us no choice.”

A related Instagram account run by those participating in the occupation shared a long message following the end of the strike:

The students who are currently occupying the University Center celebrate the news of a tentative agreement between the union and the university. It is a massive win of the New School community over the greed and disrespect of the university administration.

At the same time, we underscore that this is not the end. The university administration failed, disrespected, and threatened this community. It is naive to think that having reached this agreement after 26 days of strike means that Monday we will go back to business as usual. In this battle, the whole university community came together as never before. This is just the beginning.

The students also announced a 2:00 pm ET event at the University Center for all members of the New School community.

“Call it a celebration, call it a town hall; we need to ask ourselves: What now?” the group said. “Students, part-time faculty, staff, full-time faculty, the admin itself: let’s all come together tomorrow and have a discussion. WE are the New School; it is up to us to decide what happens next. We cannot lose this momentum.”

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  1. Cocomaan

    Pretty cool. Lambert featured the admins using bell hooks and Baldwin in their rhetoric about the protests, which had to be the most disgusting part of the situation as an outsider without money on the line. How you ever regain trust after that is an open question.

    As someone who works in higher ed I expect this isn’t the last of these and I hope some self reflection takes place in higher Ed before it’s too late. The future is not bright for the industry. Higher interest rates are already hurting a lot of schools and sustained higher interest rates will kill a lot of programs and schools. Times are changing.

  2. Joe Well

    Hilarious that they are called “part time” when they are 90% of the faculty members…presumably not 90% of the instructional hours, but still. Tenure needs to be either extended to all professors or abolished.

  3. Arizona Slim

    One of my friends was an adjunct at the University of Arizona. She likened her treatment to whale shhhh…


    Why? Because that stuff is at the bottom of the ocean.

  4. flora

    A really interesting part of this strike is so many students joining in to support the striking adjunct faculty. This is new. For many years strikes by adjuncts or graduate teaching assistants (TA’s) at unis were shunned or openly mocked by the general student population who saw themselves aligned with “management” (the admin), saw themselves as future management, not labor. The last 15+ years have apparently changed a lot of undergrads minds about where their economic future lays… apparently not with siding with management.

  5. N

    This article sounds like something a hard core DSA supporter wrote. I absolutely wouldnt consider this a win for labor.

    The strike has been going on for weeks and now when the workers have their most leverage the UAW suddenly ends the strike, announcing a tentative deal that nobody has seen and sending all the workers back to work so they can grade all the students’ work and keep the university from being forced to deal with the disaster of not being able to give students grades or credit for their semester’s work.

    In addition, the corrupt (their leaders have repeatedly been caught taking bribes from the companies that employ their workers) UAW consistently refuses to ever connect any one strike with another, thus isolating all the workers in different industries/companies which only benefits the companies negotiating against the workers allegedly represented by the UAW.

    It seems very clear that the UAW, like every other major union in the US, is either run by crooks or the most inept and incompetent negotiators the world has ever seen.

    1. JBird4049

      >>>It seems very clear that the UAW, like every other major union in the US, is either run by crooks or the most inept and incompetent negotiators the world has ever seen.

      Funny, I thought this described the political leadership of this entire blasted country; it’s corruption from top to bottom all the way through. Corruption, the American Way of Life. Condemning the unions’ leadership should also mean condemning the leaders of everything else American.

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      The corruption you refer to was in the national headquarters of the UAW; the white collar and university locals, especially in NYC, are run by a very different group of people.

    3. jrs

      Is connecting one strike to another even legal under Taft-Hartley? I don’t think it is. That they don’t want to take the next step to an illegal strike isn’t surprising.

  6. Aumua

    No mention in the article of the U of California strike that is still ongoing. I’ve noticed that this strike has consistently been under reported, which is interesting because it is very large (48000 workers). Hopefully we hear more about it going forward.

  7. JBird4049

    >>>“The New School self-describes as a ‘progressive university,

    I keep reading the word “progressive.” Somehow, I don’t think it means what they think it means. Or is one of those words used as camouflage?

  8. timotheus

    How curious and in fact hilarious that the university paved the way for the adjuncts to accumulate power by saddling them with 90% of all classes so that no one was left to break the strike. I’ll bet that wasn’t part of the plan.

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