Memorandum to the University Community from Robert Berne- Vice President for Academic and Health Affairs

November 29, 2001

Subject: Negotiations with the UAW

Since the October memo updating you on the progress of negotiations with the UAW, there have been three bargaining sessions. This brings to 17 the total number of sessions we have held. Accounting as well for the numerous additional consultations with the faculty who guide and participate in the process, the University has devoted literally hundreds of hours to bargaining since last spring.

Many faculty have been involved, both in the negotiating sessions and in the deliberations accompanying them. They include: Helene Anderson (FAS), Gabe Carras (Education), Ned Elton (Stern), Dick Foley (FAS), Philip Furmanski (FAS), Douglas Gale (FAS), Cliff Jolly (FAS), Jim Matthews (FAS), David McLaughlin (CIMS), Chuck Newman (CIMS), Dick Richardson (Education), and Gail Segal (TSOA).

Every negotiation has its moments of progress and its moments of challenge. In many ways we have made substantial progress, and the University has gone far in addressing the union’s principal concerns. Among many other matters:

  • We have indicated that we are willing to commit to a new economic
  • offer that increases University spending on GA stipends and health insurance by nearly 30%, which is a 50 percent improvement from the initial offer. In addition to increases in stipends for each and every GA, by the fifth year of the contract our offer would cover 80% of health insurance for all GAs.
  • We have indicated we are willing to commit to an agreement on the
  • union’s proposed mechanisms for a grievance and arbitration procedure and dropped our own due to the UAW’s objection to the involvement of faculty in the arbitration process.
  • We have indicated we are willing to commit to an agreement
  • establishing an “agency shop” (all GAs would be required to pay dues or an equivalent agency fee).

However, we find ourselves at a discouraging juncture. While the University has done a great deal to address and continue to make progress on the UAW’s principal issues, they have resisted addressing ours. Two matters in particular on which we have seen little inclination to find common ground are of great concern: an agreement, such as we have with our clerical workers, which would preclude strikes during the period of the contract; and an agreement which would codify the University’s sole authority to structure its academic programs.

As to the first matter: perhaps the most valued outcome of a contract negotiation between labor and an employer is the construction of a framework for working together without disruption during the period of the contract. Most of the GA contracts at state universities are governed by state labor laws that prohibit state employees from striking. However, that is not the case here, and the UAW has remained adamant that any contract we sign permit them to engage in sympathy strikes and other forms of work stoppage during the course of the contract, essentially at will. Their unwillingness to agree to forego strikes during the contract creates the prospect of a constant threat of random disruption to our academic endeavors, with undergraduates being unable to know whether or not a recitation section will meet if some other union, in some other place, with some other set of issues asks for a sympathy strike. We have worked exceptionally hard to come this far in fashioning a contract that addresses the issues raised by our own GAs at NYU, premised on the understanding that in so doing we would bring stability to our University; the UAW insists it should be otherwise.

As to the second matter: the UAW contract with the University of California includes a clause that recognizes the University’s authority in structuring it programs, and we had proposed the inclusion of the same provision in our contract. This proposal reaffirms the primacy of the University’s faculty-led governance structure.

We consider the resolution of these matters crucial.

Yet, some five months after we originally presented these proposals to the UAW, they only now tell us they are unacceptable. While both sides had originally agreed to dispense with non-economic issues before moving on to economic issues, the UAW now seeks to discard the agreed-upon process. While this is a matter concern to us, in the interests of reaching a successful conclusion we have nevertheless put a new economic proposal on the table.

As we indicated in the update we sent you in early October, it has been our desire and intention to move forward swiftly in completing a contract with the UAW, and that remains true.
We will continue to update you as we work to frame a mutually acceptable contract.

Press Contact

John Beckman
John Beckman
(212) 998-6848