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NYU's Tentative Grad-Student Union Contract Has Bigger Bonuses for Workers

 NYU's grad students union, the only one recognized at any private university in the country, secured a tentative contract with the university.
NYU's grad students union, the only one recognized at any private university in the country, secured a tentative contract with the university.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec

GREENWICH VILLAGE — New York University's graduate-student union presented its tentative new contract to members at a town hall meeting Wednesday, with the deal including increased coverage of health costs and bigger bonuses for some student employees.

The agreement between the school and the Graduate Students Organizing Committee was lauded by both sides after they hammered it out in a six-hour bargaining session late Monday night.

GSOC, part of the United Auto Workers Local 2110, is the only recognized union of student workers at a private university in the country. It includes Ph.D. candidates from every department, who work as teaching assistants, as well as master's students from the Polytechnic Institute of Engineering in Brooklyn, who are paid for administrative work. 

All of the graduate students are part-time employees, expected to work 20 hours per week for 28 weeks a year.

Under the new contract, which the union's full membership has not yet agreed to, NYU would pay 90 percent of the cost of master's student workers' health insurance, up from the administration's previous offer of 70 percent coverage.

Ph.D. candidates have fully funded health insurance as students, but not as workers, the administration said.

The university also agreed to create funds to help grad student workers pay for childcare and health insurance for their families, as well as increasing the bonuses offered to master's student workers at NYU Poly to $750 from $250.

The union was particularly pleased with the bonuses, which they said effectively raised Poly workers' hourly rate to $15 an hour retroactively for 2013-'14 and 2014-'15.

While the union had pushed for a three-year contract, allowing it to renegotiate terms after that time, the tentative contract is for six years, as NYU wanted. The school has six-year contracts with seven other unions, covering 5,000 university employees, a NYU spokesman said.

Contract negotiations with GSOC have been ongoing for more than a year, drawing supporters from the undergraduate student body and faculty. One union member said in a statement that the agreement has significance beyond the walls of NYU, and sets a "historic precedent" for student workers at other universities who are struggling to form unions.

“Graduate workers, whether at public or private universities, deserve living wages and an equitable contract," said Anne Pasek, a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communications at NYU's Steinhardt School.

The administration seems equally satisfied with the outcome of the collective bargaining.

"NYU is pleased to have come to agreement with the UAW on a tentative contract," NYU spokesman John Beckman said.

A union spokesman said it will vote on whether to ratify the contract "at some point in the next few weeks."