Adjunct professors at NYU are prepared to strike if the school does not meet their union’s demands by the end of their contract, which expires Oct. 30.
An overwhelming 95% of unionized adjunct faculty members voted in favor of a strike, union ACT-UAW Local 7902 said Monday. A total 1,075 of its 1,571 members voted in favor of striking, if necessary, the union said, though a specific date had not yet been set. Sixty-three voted against.
Adjuncts represent more than half of the total teaching staff at NYU, the union said.
The union’s current contract with NYU, signed in 2016, was initially set to expire Aug. 31, but was extended twice for negotiations, which were ongoing since April 14. For its next four-year contract, the union is asking NYU for higher pay, better benefits and health insurance, pay for training and other duties, and protection against course cancellation.
"NYU is committed to bargaining in good faith and reaching agreement on a contract that honors the contributions of adjunct faculty to the NYU teaching and learning environment," said John Beckman, an NYU spokesperson. "The university remains focused on our joint efforts with the union at the bargaining table, where we continue to make progress toward an agreement."
In a statement, the union said that NYU adjuncts’ health care benefits are “grossly inadequate,” arguing that insurance premiums for a family of four can add up to more than $26,000 each year.
“My two undergraduate classes alone generate in tuition more than $300,000 a year,” testified Simon Fortin, an adjunct faculty member of interdisciplinary seminars, during a bargaining session. “I do that, with courses I have created, refined over the years, and I get a laughable fraction of that tuition.”
A spokesperson from NYU did not return a request for comment.
Some progress had been made during negotiations. The union reportedly signed 14 tentative agreements securing certain components of the next contract, but some issues were left unresolved, including compensation, health insurance, and pay for work done outside of the classroom. The union said the university’s offers remained far from their demands.
Lizzie Olesker, who teaches playwriting at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is on the union’s bargaining committee, said it's crucial that the next contract acknowledges the hours adjuncts spend preparing materials, completing administrative tasks, and meeting with students in the form of compensation.
“I meet with my students. It's a huge part of the course,” Olesker said. “It's like the most important thing for them to have one-on-one discussions about their writing. By the end of the semester, I volunteer. I give that away to NYU and I do it because I love my students and I want them to thrive and write a great play. But it's not right.”
The union said its bargaining committee would do everything possible to avoid a work stoppage – a noted last resort to pressure the university to meet members’ demands. Now that the strike has been authorized, should it reach that point, the union’s website said it will be planned at a time that could achieve maximum impact, with adjunct faculty members picketing outside their respective places of work.
The next bargaining sessions will take place on Oct. 26 and Oct. 28.
This article has been updated to include comment from NYU.