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Full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members at New York University have unionized, creating the largest bargaining unit of such employees at a private U.S. higher education institution.

Jacob Remes, a member of the organizing committee for the new union, Contract Faculty United, said the effort began in 2017. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the push, he said, and then negotiations with NYU administration on a “fair process” to form the union and who could be included in it lasted 10 months.

Finally, there was an election Tuesday and Wednesday overseen by the American Arbitration Association, and the vote in favor was 553 to 72 out of 931 eligible voters, Remes said. He said the union doesn’t include faculty members who aren’t “continuing,” such as visiting professors, nor does it include faculty members in the business, law, medicine or dentistry schools; managers at the chair level and up; and a few other faculty members whose jobs include significant administrative responsibilities.

The union is affiliated with the United Autoworkers, which has been a major organizer of academic workers. Remes, a clinical associate professor at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, said, “People want to be part of a fighting union,” and the UAW fights on multiple big issues, including transitioning away from fossil fuels and ending the war in Gaza.

“Joining the UAW at this moment is something that academic workers like us are like banging down the doors to do,” Remes said. As for the NYU union’s aims, he said bargaining priorities will be “democratically decided,” but he expects improvements to salaries, benefits and job security will be among the demands.

“Depending on the school, we tend to teach more and get paid less than tenure-track faculty,” he said, adding that there’s a “lot of unevenness and inequality across NYU.”

William Herbert—executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College, part of the City University of New York—confirmed the union’s claim that it’s the largest of its kind.

In an email, NYU spokesman John Beckman congratulated the union.

“As the university promised, we maintained neutrality throughout the election process,” he wrote. “NYU recognizes the important contributions that full-time continuing contract faculty make to the university community; NYU is committed to bargaining in good faith to come to agreement on a contract.”