Special Reports

NYU's Instructors Elect Union, Forming the Largest Non-Tenure Faculty Union in Private Higher Education


In a historic move, full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members at New York University (NYU) have successfully unionized, marking the largest bargaining unit of its kind at a private higher education institution in the United States. The new union, named Contract Faculty United, is poised to bring about significant changes for these faculty members.

(Photo : UNSPLASH / Tdorante10)

Years-Long Effort Culminates in Victory

The journey toward unionization began in 2017, with faculty members aiming to address issues related to job security, compensation, and overall working conditions. Jacob Remes, a member of the organizing committee for Contract Faculty United, highlighted the challenges faced during the process. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the initial efforts, and subsequent negotiations with NYU administration for a fair unionization process extended over a 10-month period.

After overcoming these hurdles, an election was held on Tuesday and Wednesday, facilitated by the American Arbitration Association. Out of 931 eligible voters, an overwhelming majority of 553 voted in favor of unionization, with only 72 opposed. Remes emphasized the inclusivity of the union, clarifying that it does not cover faculty members who aren't in continuous positions, such as visiting professors, and excludes certain faculty members from specific schools and administrative roles.

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The Union's Affiliation and Objectives

Contract Faculty United is affiliated with the United Autoworkers (UAW), a significant player in organizing academic workers. Remes explained that the decision to align with UAW stems from a shared commitment to addressing broader issues, including environmental concerns and global conflicts. He expressed the enthusiasm among academic workers to be part of a union that actively engages in advocating for social justice.

While the specific bargaining priorities are yet to be determined, Remes anticipates that improvements in salaries, benefits, and job security will be central to the demands. He emphasized the existing disparities across NYU, stating that non-tenure-track faculty often teach more but receive less compensation than their tenure-track counterparts. The union aims to address these inequities and create a more balanced and supportive environment for all faculty members.

William Herbert, serving as the executive director of the National Center for Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College, underscored the profound historical importance of NYU's unionization. The sheer size of the bargaining unit underscores the collective determination among faculty members to bring about positive change.

In response to the successful unionization, NYU spokesman John Beckman conveyed the university's acknowledgment of the contributions made by full-time continuing contract faculty. He reiterated NYU's commitment to engaging in good-faith negotiations to establish a mutually agreeable contract.

As Contract Faculty United prepares to enter negotiations with NYU administration, the union's victory marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing efforts to address labor issues within the academic sphere. The outcomes of these negotiations are poised to have a lasting impact on the working conditions and overall well-being of non-tenure-track faculty members at NYU.

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