Volume 73, Number 50 | April 21 - 27, 2004

N.Y.U. adjuncts poised to strike amid final talks

By Elizabeth O’Brien

As The Villager went to press, most New York University part-time professors were set to strike on Wednesday morning if last-minute negotiations scheduled for Tuesday night did not produce a contract that the university and the union could agree upon.

In a vote held last week, 91.4 percent of the university’s adjunct professors who voted chose to strike for improved job security, wages, health insurance and working conditions. Adjuncts have been negotiating for their first contract since September 2002, shortly after the United Auto Workers won the vote to represent them.

The university and the union held marathon mediation sessions over the weekend and also on Monday night, but they failed to produce a contract. It seems unlikely that sufficient progress will be made at a last-ditch meeting scheduled for Tuesday evening and that adjuncts will strike on Wednesday morning, said Scott Sommer, a union spokesperson.

“Hopefully, it’ll be quick,” Sommer said of the expected strike, “but we can’t predict these things.”

N.Y.U. spokesperson John Beckman said the school had made provisions for a strike, although it maintains that such an action is unnecessary.

“We continue to believe that through the use of mediation, bargaining has been productive and will continue to make progress,” Beckman said.

However, in the event of a strike, Beckman said, “the university will remain open, classes will go forward as scheduled and students’ work for this semester will be evaluated in an academically appropriate manner. Students scheduled to graduate will do so.”

Beckman declined to elaborate on what measures the university had taken to mitigate the impact of a strike.

An estimated 1,200 to 1,300 part-time professors are working at N.Y.U. this semester, although the university has not made exact numbers available, Sommer said. Adjuncts teach a majority of classes at the university, he added.

Nick Rizzo, 18, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, said none of his courses were taught by adjuncts, and that most students he talked to on campus didn’t expect major disruptions to their coursework if the strike happens.

Rizzo, a member of the Village Independent Democrats political club, said he was generally inclined to support the union, but that he needed more information before he could evaluate its claims.

“Frankly, I think both sides could be more forthcoming with information,” Rizzo said.

At 10 p.m., Tuesday night, Kate Fallon, an adjunct in photography at the Tisch School of the Arts and a member of the union’s bargaining committee, said it appeared “50/50” that a strike would be avoided.

“At this point, we’re going back and forth with the mediation,” she said. She said they were still negotiating on large issues, like healthcare plans and office space for adjuncts.

“There’s still a chance we can wrap this up,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of very good productive days of negotiations. Monday night wasn’t as productive as we hoped.”

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