12/02/2011

University Staff Keep Pressure On, Resist Givebacks

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The Union of Clerical, Administrative and Technical Staff (UCATS), representing 1,400 employees at New York University in New York City, is still in negotiations on a contract that expired Oct. 31. Both sides have said they plan to return to the bargaining table this month.

UCATs

In the first nine bargaining sessions, NYU put just one proposal on the table: The private university asked the union's bargaining team to excise the right of members to seek relief from discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—thus waiving a First Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution. This suggestion is particularly amazing because it comes on the heels of an NYU settlement with the EEOC over a severe case of racial discrimination.

On Oct. 26, the university proposed wage increases so small that, coupled with givebacks on health insurance, the package would amount to six years of pay cuts—despite a $114 million profit in NYU's most recent fiscal year. By contrast, UCATS is asking for living wages, affordable health insurance and respectful working conditions. NYU has since edged away from some of its giveback demands.

The union has held several events this fall, including a visit from AFT secretary-treasurer Lorretta Johnson on Oct. 31, a march led by a member bagpiper, and an Occupy Wall Street-style rally with NYU's student organizing committee. Union members also have taken part in leafleting and informational picketing. More than 125 members packed a bargaining session to tell NYU negotiators what they thought of the giveback proposals.

An action on Nov. 16 involved members tossing coins into a bucket labeled "Chump Change" outside the room where the negotiating team met. UCATS members donated the $100 they collected to the Partnership for the Homeless, "which is where a lot of us will be if NYU isn't willing to negotiate a better contract," says union president Stephen Rechner.

For the latest UCATS bargaining updates, check the union's new blog. The union also has a petition supporters can sign. [Annette Licitra]

December 1, 2011