Graduate assistants at the New School went on strike Tuesday, protesting the negotiating process for a first union contract. The strike is expected to last through the week’s end unless an agreement is reached. Graduate assistants on campus voted to form a union last May in affiliation with the United Auto Workers and have been bargaining since September. The union says it is working to secure tuition and fee waivers, better pay, and other goals. Health-care benefits have been a particular point of contention, with the union saying that what the administration has offered thus far doesn’t amount to meaningful coverage.
The New School said in a statement that while it is committed to continuing negotiations in good faith, the union's “current demands would result in a 129 percent increase in costs for this group of employees at a time when the New School has cut non-staff expenses by $4.2 million as part of its focus on retaining jobs and protecting teaching across the university.” Classes will continue as scheduled.
Graduate student assistants at Columbia University, who also voted to form a union affiliated with the UAW, in 2016, went on strike for a week last month over the university’s refusal to bargain with them at all. That institution, among others, has challenged a major 2016 decision from the National Labor Relations Board saying that graduate student teaching and research assistants are also employees entitled to collective bargaining.