The New School has reached a tentative contract agreement with its part-time faculty this weekend, ending a strike that lasted nearly a month.
A joint statement released by the faculty’s union, ACT-United Auto Workers Local 7902, and the New School on Sunday said two highlights of the five-year deal are pay raises and boosts to health care for the workers.
Union leaders said they expect the agreement to be ratified by the group’s 2,400 members later this week — and said all classes and events would resume immediately.
“Now, together, we can return to our mission of teaching, learning, creating and supporting our students,” the statement said.
The agreement comes just in time for the final week of the university’s fall semester.
The part-time teachers — who make up 82% of the university’s teaching staff — had not received a raise in four years. They griped their actual wages had shrunk by 18% over that time due to inflation.
Local 7902 President Zoe Carey did not disclose the specific terms of the deal, but said the new pay structure gives teachers raises in dollar amounts rather than percentages, which is aimed to help teachers on the lowest end of the pay scale.
“What we tried to do in this contract was lift up the part-time faculty who are currently paid the least,” she said.
Carey said the bargaining unit also won better job security, easier access to health insurance and compensation for work done outside the classroom.
The workers began striking nearly a month ago, on Nov. 16, when contract negotiations stalled with the school. The action forced students to sit out of classes for the bulk of the fall semester, and many full-time faculty members joined the strike in solidarity.
Parents of the university’s students threatened to sue the school for lost tuition while their kids were out of classes.
A teacher for the school, Marie-Helene Bertino, and Carey both said the pressure worked, and that the teachers got everything they asked for.
“It’s pretty remarkable,” said Carey, adding the contract was nearly set on Wednesday, Dec. 7, but that the union held out for a better deal on health care.
“They finally realized that this is something we were not going to move on. And they met our demands,” she said.
Bertino, a creative writing teacher at the New School for Public Engagement who’s taught at universities on the East Coast for 10 years, said she didn’t expect to get any substantial pay raises until her union went on strike last month.
“We were all so resigned to having to make due underneath this. The system makes you feel like, Hey, this is New York City. There are billions of writers here. We can replace you with someone who won’t mind these conditions,” said Bertino.
She said she spoke with her students, ahead of time, and told them a strike would likely come, and they should understand it’s personal: writers often work as adjunct faculty members to make ends meet.
“I just wanted them to know that I didn’t take this lightly and that this is what being a teaching artist in New York City looks like,” said Bertino. “And for them to understand what it means to be a writer in the world, especially a writer in New York City, this was as good of an education as they would ever get as to what it actually looks like.”
Carey said it is not yet clear if teachers will be paid for the time they were on strike. She described the new contract as bittersweet.
“I think everyone is feeling an immense amount of joy and relief and at the same time a little bit of frustration, because we’ve been very clear in our asks for a while now and the university could have met us sooner,” said Carey. “They could have done the right thing early on and even prevented the strike entirely.”