Saxophonist Arun Luthra, an member of the negotiating committee.
Jazz lives! Ten years ago, jazz instructors who teach at the New School University became the first group of jazz teachers in the country to win a union contract. At the time, it was unheard of for part-time faculty to earn pension and health payments. Ten years and a few contracts later, Local 802 and the New School have reached a solid successor agreement after a series of lengthy and, at times, difficult negotiations.
At stake was the continuation of the university-sponsored health plan, which the New School initially wanted to terminate for the jazz faculty.
“This was a tough negotiation which showed us, through hard-fought experience, how essential solidarity within the bargaining unit is, and taught us to never take for granted even a mature contract which has been in place for almost a decade,” saxophonist Arun Luthra told Allegro. “We are very pleased to have brought these negotiations to a successful conclusion, and we begin the new semester at the New School jazz program with a continued dedication and commitment to our work as teaching artists.” Luthra was a member of the teachers’ negotiating committee.
In the new agreement, teachers won a 12 percent wage increase over three years along with an additional bump in pension to 10 percent, up from 7 percent. The new contract also offers significant increases in honorariums for committee service.
Part time faculty who teach classes of more than 40 students were allotted a 10 percent premium (up from 5 percent) and tuition remission benefits were extended.
Perhaps the sweetest victory was maintaining the university sponsored health plan and achieving the same premium caps won earlier by ACT-UAW (Local 7902), which represents the largest group of New School faculty. “Union solidarity really paid off for our jazz faculty members,” said Recording Vice President Dennison who led the negotiations. “Our support for the larger faculty body’s organizing and negotiating efforts certainly helped us make improvement in both our health and pension benefits. We thank the members of ACT-UAW for their support.” The New School also agreed to a $3,000-per-year employer contribution for individuals on the 802 Health Plan, guaranteeing Plan A coverage.
Local 802 Negotiating Committee members Junior Mance, Arun Luthra, Jimmy Owens, David Lopato, Janet Lawson, Armen Donelian, Amy London and Rory Stuart were led by 802 Recording Vice President Bill Dennison through a complex series of discussions that yielded heartening results. Jazz Rep Todd Weeks also provided vital support throughout the process.