TL;DR: NYU offered its first substantial proposals which completely ignored many of GSOC’s impact bargaining, and general bargaining demands and offered only modest gains to wages and benefits.
This week, in our last bargaining session before our contract is set to expire, we received the first substantial counter proposals from NYU. NYU’s legal representative began with a lengthy preamble, stating that NYU saw little reason to substantially change our contract because it was hard-won during the previous negotiations, and because – in the context of pandemic and financial insecurity – NYU is not in a position to grant substantial changes to the contract. This is ironic, since it is precisely the changes in working conditions, borne in part from this pandemic, that has led GSOC to pursue impact bargaining and substantial changes to parts of our contract.
NYU’s proposal ignores most of the demands that GSOC has made since bargaining began while offering some minor gains in wages and benefits. The proposal includes a 5% (to $21/hr) and 10% (to $22/hr) increase to hourly wages for MA and PhD Grad employees respectively, with alternating 2.5% and 2% annual increases after that until 2025, when the next contract is due to expire. These increases, it is important to note, would only barely keep pace with the rate of inflation and remain far below the cost of living in New York City.
Health insurance provisions would remain largely the same under NYU’s proposals, with minor extensions in coverage. NYU’s proposals include doubling the allocation for child care subsidies from $100k to $200k. It also stated that NYU is exploring the union’s proposal to get membership access to care.com or Bright Horizons Enhanced Family Benefits, but that this would begin in AY 2022, if an agreement is made with these organizations and NYU.
Other proposed changes included minor changes to leave of absence including seven days for sick leave and three days each for bereavement and religious observance. The proposal suggests offering a week of pay after two consecutive semesters of bargaining-unit-eligible work in lieu of vacation.
Finally, the proposal suggests extending contract duration from five years to six, which of course means fewer opportunities to push for better working conditions.
GSOC was quick to point out that these proposals completely ignored many of the urgent demands we have made throughout bargaining. NYU offered nothing with regards to changes in Equity and Inclusion issues like affirmative action policy and sexual harassment grievances – a glaring omission in light of the Avital Ronell scandal. NYU offered no changes to workplace conditions like class size, which is a pressing issue in the context of COVID. Nothing is offered for international/immigrant students who, we have argued, face unique and tremendous hardship around issues like housing and taxation. NYU made no concessions on the issue of housing subsidies, which is already standard policy in some departments. Finally, NYU made no mention of NYU/NYPD ties, which we have demonstrated to constitute a serious workplace safety and discrimination issue.
NYU’s counsel responded that they do not intend to respond to all of our demands and it is NYU’s position that these do not constitute workplace issues under the purview of our contract.
GSOC pushed back against this characterization and concluded by stressing the importance of responding to our impact bargaining demands, especially to clarify the status of graduate workers who are working abroad during the fall semester. On Friday, NYU’s legal team responded, stating that workers across the university with US work authorization and I-9s are permitted to work abroad and continue receiving union benefits.
Now that the contract is set to expire, we have proposed a temporary extension of the contract through September. The benefits of extending the contract include being able to continue filing grievances for contract violations. If we let the contract expire, however, we will be in a position to strike, which could be a crucial tool in pushing NYU to meet our demands. This will largely depend on the will and interests of GSOC’s rank and file membership, which is why we plan on hosting a number of discussion sessions in the near future and why we encourage you to get involved!