Bargaining update – October 13th, 2020

TL;DR: Despite two meaningful gains won by GSOC on issues related to equity & inclusion and childcare, NYU continued to stonewall most of the union’s demands. GSOC emphasized demands related to significantly improving  benefits  for Master’sstudents and eliminating inequities between PhD and master’s workers.

The latest bargaining session was another exercise in patience from GSOC’s bargaining committee. After many months of bargaining on issues critical to graduate students’ livelihoods, and watching the university make embarrassingly small concessions, GSOC demonstrated its continued willingness to bargain by presenting some modifications of its proposals.You can find a complete overview of the current status of GSOC’s and NYU’s proposals here.

In a win for GSOC, NYU agreed to two of our demands regarding equity &inclusion and childcare: the right to an indefinite period to file a grievance on discrimination and harassment, which was a core equity and inclusion demand on our part, as well as access to the Bright Horizons childcare benefit other campus workers get.

Following this, NYU announced that they were rejecting the healthcare demands made by GSOC in our September 29 bargaining session. They also made no movement on GSOC’s impact bargaining demands, despite continuing COVID-related difficulties facing graduate workers. Meanwhile, NYU stubbornly persists in keeping the university open as COVID cases rise and expects students to share pictures of their domestic spaces on social media for good press.

This bargaining session focused on our proposals concerning master’s students at NYU. This is the group of students most directly dependent on working jobs, especially hourly positions, at the university, as they typically do not receive stipends or health insurance coverage as part of their acceptance package. As such, making sure that benefits are equitable and accessible across the board for all graduate workers is a foundational priority for GSOC throughout bargaining. Two master’s students powerfully explained the vulnerable position that NYU’s employment and tuition practices put them in, illustrating the urgency of tuition waivers for master’s workers and a living wage   when master’s students are unable to make a living and pay NYU’s immense tuition even when working at the university.

GSOC reiterated our demand that contract provisions not have any tiered pay or benefits depending on the workers’ status as students, in opposition to NYU’s pitiful proposal that master’s students receive $1 raises while PhD students receive $2. Master’s and PhD students all perform the same work at the university, and should be remunerated accordingly. NYU seemed to think otherwise, stating that PhD workers have “advanced qualification” compared to master’s workers, which is false and insulting. 

Master’s students also look to have been affected disproportionately by an apparent hiring freeze by the university. For this reason GSOC is proposing that the total number of hours represented by appointments shall not fall below 90% of the number worked in the academic year 2018-2019 (section J: “union erosions”).

GSOC rejected NYU’s previous suggestion to introduce a mediator to bargaining sessions at this point in negotiations. NYU then proposed a 3-month extension of our contract, which would maintain our no-strike clause through winter break. GSOC rejected this because it would significantly undermine our collective power.  At the end of the session, GSOC and NYU agreed to extend the current contract until the next bargaining session taking place November 5.