New School Teachers Keep Pushing For Union

Volume CIV, No. 2February, 2004

Jan Clausen

On Nov. 13, faculty fighting to unionize in seven divisions at the New School sponsored a panel on their organizing efforts. 802’s Jimmy Owens was one of the speakers.

As reported in November’s Allegro, part-time faculty at the New School are trying to win a union; they’ve chosen the UAW as their representative. Currently, the only unionized part-time faculty at the New School are in the Jazz and Contemporary Music Program and the Guitar Study Center. Local 802 represents the faculty in both programs.

Entitled “Becoming an Organized University,” the event drew a large crowd. It situated the faculty’s effort within an embattled but feisty American labor movement that offers workers their best hope for fair compensation, dignity, and a democratic voice in the workplace.

Featured speakers included Dr. Adolph Reed, Jr., from the political science department of the New School’s graduate faculty; Dr. Kitty Krupat, a veteran of the campaign to organize teaching assistants at NYU; and faculty representatives from ACT-UAW, which is the name of the faculty’s union-in-formation.

Decrying the New School’s exploitation of its overwhelmingly part-time faculty, Adolph Reed quipped that too many universities act as though they are “turning out chickens,” not educated human beings.

Kitty Krupat stressed the grassroots nature of effective organizing: the union is “us,” not “them,” and is only as strong as the efforts of its members.

Marie Dormuth, an ACT-UAW member from Parsons School of Design, spoke frankly of being told by the New School administration that her cherished part-time teaching “wasn’t a real job.”

Adding an inspirational touch, Jimmy Owens described the improvements that resulted from 802’s pathbreaking efforts in the program.

Owens was one of the initial organizers when 802 helped organize the jazz program back in 1997. This became the first unit of part-time teachers at the New School ever to have a union. Owens teaches music business and trumpet at the school; he’s also the jazz liaison to 802’s executive board and chair of the 802 Jazz Advisory Committee.

“The battle is tough, but never give up!” was the message from representatives of other campus unions including 32BJ (maintenance workers) and UNITE (security guards).

Dozens of students attended the event thanks to the Student Labor Union Group (SLUG), recently formed to support organized labor on campus.

The next big step for the ACT-UAW campaign will be an election to obtain union certification.

Instead of voluntarily recognizing the faculty as a union, the New School went to the National Labor Relations Board and attempted to whittle down the size of the bargaining unit. The NLRB hearings concluded in September. The election date will be set once the board issues its ruling on who is eligible to vote.

Meanwhile, in late November a group of prominent elected officials contacted the New School president Bob Kerrey, urging him to sign a neutrality pledge covering the election period.

For updates on the faculty’s campaign, visit

Jan Clausen is a part-time faculty member of the Eugene Lang College at the New School. She is also a poet, novelist and critic. Her nine books include the memoir “Apples and Oranges.”