WSN Archive
NYU stiffs adjuncts on contract
Laura de la Torre
3/9/05 0:00

Even though the adjuncts union is slowly gaining ground at NYU, its officials are charging the university with not fully complying with the contract signed last May, including not providing enough office space, union dues or information about adjunct employees.

The adjunct professors union and the NYU administration reached an agreement 10 months ago after nearly two years of stalemated negotiations.

'[University officials] are violating the letter and spirit of the contract,' Ward Regan, interim president of United Auto Workers local 7902, said. 'The university's behavior has changed, but they're still acting like there is no legal contract.'

The union was given 278 square feet of office space after they were promised 600, Regan said. The space lacks a bathroom, a closet, storage space and an emergency exit, he added.

UAW has consequently filed a grievance with the office of the provost about its inadequate office space, Regan said.

University spokesman John Beckman said that although the university has never provided space for unions, it agreed in a side letter to provide the union with money for an office, but has since learned it is illegal to give money directly to the union.

'When a provision of a bargaining agreement is not legal, it is unenforceable, which traditionally nullifies that clause of the agreement,' Beckman said. 'NYU nevertheless elected to honor the intention of this clause in agreement, despite not having an obligation to do so.'

UAW lawyers argue that since the letter is attached to the contract, it is considered part of the legal obligation of the university to provide the space, Regan said.

The union isn't receiving all of the membership dues either, Regan said. The contract requires the university to process union dues by taking them out of union members' paychecks, according to the union's website.

Beckman said that if they aren't receiving certain dues, it is because the union is not sending in all the union membership cards, which are necessary for the university to to deduct the fees from adjunct paychecks.

But, Regan said the union hasn't received all of the signed union cards because the university has not yet given the names, compensation and contact information of all the adjuncts eligible for the union.

The union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, saying the university is violating the contract by not providing the information, Regan said.

Beckman said the university has complied with the article in the contract, entitled 'Bargaining Unit Information,' that details what information NYU is required to give to the union.

'The charge filed with the NLRB does not specify what information the union claims that the university has not given to it,' Beckman wrote. '[It is] unclear if the union is entitled to whatever it is they are seeking.'

The university will send a response to the NLRB early next week, Beckman said.

Despite these setbacks, the union achieved some recent victories, including health benefits awarded for the first time in January and the installation of a three-step grievance process that allows adjuncts to convey complaints to the university about unfair actions, including wrongful termination and pay discrepancies.

The grievance process resulted in a victory for SCPS adjunct Robert Nagle, but he had to wait for almost a year before action was taken, he said. When, in 2003, Nagle's pay was reduced in the midst of union negotiations, he continued to teach at a lower rate while working with UAW attorneys, he said. Nagle said he received a letter from the Associate Dean of SCPS Suzanne Turk early in February informing him that the school had reviewed his case and ruled in his favor, awarding him four semesters of back pay and an increase in salary.

'If the adjuncts hadn't unionized, my result wouldn't have been as positive,' Nagle said. 'It's nice to have someone working on your behalf and have some allies.'

Regan said at least 20 grievances have been filed and are still pending, while only six have been settled successfully so far.