In a powerful boost to the strike of 48,000 university workers in the University of California (UC) system, more than 1,600 part-time faculty at New York University’s New School were left in lockdown Wednesday.
Adjunct professors, members of UAW Local 7902, are demanding pay raises, better access to medical coverage, job security and guarantees for academic freedom. The union’s contact with the university expired on November 13.
There were large numbers of strikers and supporters on the picket line at the New School’s University Center on 14th Street at Union Square in Lower Manhattan. Hundreds marched to the picket line, with students and full-time faculty joining striking part-time faculty.
Workers on the picket line described the abysmal wages, lack of job security and extreme inequality that drive their struggle.
“The new school needs to do more for part-time facilities,” said a striking part-time faculty member who has been teaching writing for at least 10 years. “I do other jobs like freelance work. I just have to survive.
“I was a public school teacher for 23 years and I’ve been teaching at the New School for eight years,” said Sam Sellers, a part-time hip-hop culture and music teacher. “Seven percent of their budget is used to pay for 87 percent of the installation. They don’t pay us for anything we do outside of the classroom. I work as a DJ and stuff to help me with my finances.
Julie Anne Brosseasu, a third-year film student, was one of many students who came to the picket line to show their support. “There are labor struggles all over the country,” she said. “Teachers are not paid for the work they do. They’ve been negotiating for months, and here’s the result.
“The teachers are amazing,” she added. “They are as dedicated to students as full-time teachers. However, the pay gap between them is quite significant.
Clara, a first-year photography student, denounces the New School for its hypocrisy. “I came here because it’s supposed to be a progressive school,” she said. “I was lied to. The headteacher gets a million dollars a year. I think the founders of this place would be very upset if they saw what’s going on here.
As with the struggle in the UC system, the New School strike expresses the opposition of university workers to a sharp decline in living standards. Real salaries for New School adjunct teachers have fallen 18% over the past four years.
The union’s demands – insufficient given the high cost of living in New York – call for an immediate increase of 10% and 5% in subsequent years. The university is only offering a 3.5% salary increase this year and 2% in subsequent years. The union is asking to cut employee health care premiums by 2%, and the university is seeking to increase them by 5%.
Educators told the World Socialist Website from how they work well beyond contractual hours (they only get paid for hours spent in class) and pay for supplies out of their own pocket to provide a top-notch learning experience for their students. An adjunct told the WSWS, “A three-credit course has 45 contact hours per semester, but I’d say I work double or triple that.”
The New School, which markets itself as a progressive institution, is one of the most unequal universities in one of the most unequal cities in the world. University president Dwight A. McBride received over $1 million in compensation. The school’s top 15 administrators have incomes ranging from over $350,000 to $900,000 per year. The part-time professors live in a city where the average price of a one-bedroom apartment now exceeds $4,000 a month and where inflation remained at over 6% last month.
In keeping with the precariousness of educational work all over the world, adjunct professors teach nearly 90% of classes at The New School. The fact that the New School intends to make life even more precarious for its faculty in a “restructuring plan” is an open secret.
A tenured professor who supports the strike told the World Socialist Website“The current trajectory of hiring more adjuncts and independent contractors will lead to the few remaining full-time faculty being seen as an expensive and inconsequential part of the workforce.
“We have not yet seen the details of the university’s restructuring plan, but since its aim is to streamline and reduce the cost of ‘education’, it will not involve better salaries for professors at part-time. The administration continues to promote its “social justice” brand image, but most people see through it. »
The New School’s disregard for the health and safety of its staff is evident in its COVID-19 policy. As the New School and the UAW negotiate a “pandemic bonus” for deputies, the number of infections rises again in the city. Elementary and high school teachers are reporting that entire classrooms are closed due to sickness absences, and pediatric wards in New York hospitals are full.
Many New School buildings have exceptionally poor ventilation, and the university recorded a COVID-19 positivity test rate of around 4.8% last week. It dropped mask requirements on October 10 and cases will no doubt rise.
These are the same conditions that have forced millions of workers around the world into struggle. The strike at the New School and the strike of 48,000 academics in California are part of a powerful resurgence of working class opposition after three years of pandemic, rising inflation and the “war tax of austerity as the Biden administration spends tens of billions weaponizing its proxy war in Ukraine against Russia.
The UAW bureaucracy does nothing to mobilize other workers in New York or across the country in a unified struggle. The massive UAW International apparatus, made up of hundreds of public servants earning more than $100,000 and controlling more than $1 billion in assets, is doing nothing to inform workers in autos and other manufacturing industries of the struggle. university workers, let alone mobilize their support.
UAW Local 7902 has kept isolated its various sub-units, which represent New School graduate workers as well as New York University (NYU) auxiliaries. The NYU Auxiliary Union settled a contact two weeks ago without a strike.
While many members of these organizations have thrown their full support behind the striking faculty, and even joined the protests and picket lines today, the UAW — according to a well-laid game plan — is working to first to isolate the strikes, then to demobilize them. their.
While many tenured and tenure-track teachers support the strike, the organization bargaining for them, the AAUP, which is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, has not stopped work.
UAW presidential candidate Will Lehman has called for a grassroots workers’ movement to abolish the apparatus and transfer power to workers in every shop and workplace. Lehman called on UC and New School scholars to form rank-and-file committees to take the lead in the struggle and unite their strikes with the struggle of all workers in the UAW and beyond.
On Wednesday, Lehman tweeted his support for the New School strike, saying, “I call on all autoworkers and academics to join their fight.”
Friday, November 18 is the deadline given by the Monitor to mail in ballots for the UAW elections to ensure they are received in time to be counted. For more information on Will Lehman’s campaign, visit WillforUAWPresident.org.