Landmark victory for New School jazz faculty

Recording Vice President's report

Volume 123, No. 5May, 2023

Harvey Mars

The jazz faculty at the New School have achieved a new tentative contract that contains landmark gains. The story of how Local 802 and the negotiating committee won this victory is inspiring and worth telling in detail.

The road to our contract was paved by a strike — but not a strike initiated by Local 802. As many of you know, the New School’s part-time faculty represented by ACT-UAW Local 7902 struck the school for 25 days last fall, effectively shutting down the college. Our jazz instructors honored the UAW’s picket line and refused to cross it, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their colleagues in other departments. We marched, chanted and jammed in support of the strike — even though it was for another union’s contract. I brought out my Marshall Gilkes trombone and played with them; see my report here from the January 2023 issue of Allegro.

(Photo from the Rally for Respect in September 2022)

There were definite risks associated with honoring UAW’s picket line. New School management asserted that Local 802 was refusing to abide by its contractual “no strike” obligation. In response, Local 802 correctly asserted that the no strike clause was not effective because our collective bargaining agreement had expired before the strike commenced. Before Local 802’s legal position could be challenged, the strike settled, and the UAW secured a huge victory for its members. As a result of the strike, the faculty won the largest raise it had ever seen, as well as other significant benefits.

The UAW’s ardent efforts to improve working conditions for adjunct faculty were remarkably successful. Adjuncts comprise a very large segment of educators who work at universities and colleges, which think they can cut costs by hiring part-time faculty. Schools are also skimping on benefits because of an erroneous belief that part-time faculty can achieve benefits elsewhere through other employment. As a result, many contingent part-time faculty don’t have meaningful job security, pension benefits, health insurance or other protections enjoyed by their full-time counterparts. Many haven’t even been able to form unions and therefore don’t have a collective bargaining relationship with their employer.

Jazz faculty acted in solidarity with the UAW because that’s a core tenet of unionism: we’re stronger together. The UAW’s victory was achieved in part because the jazz faculty honored the picket line and refused to teach.

After the strike settled, one glaring fact remained: the gains achieved by the UAW were not automatically transferable to the Local 802 bargaining unit. Now Local 802 was called upon to negotiate its own contract with its own terms. There was no assurance we would achieve any of the improvements that the UAW had won. Furthermore, the UAW was now bound by a new contract with a “no strike” obligation and therefore couldn’t strike in support of Local 802’s efforts to achieve parity. This was a perilous position to be in.

Local 802 and the jazz faculty bargaining committee began negotiations in January 2023. Finding our leverage and positioning it to our members’ advantage was the key to successful negotiations. The New School had gone through the longest strike in its history and had suffered significant damage to its reputation. The school needed to learn from its mistakes and demonstrate that it could effectively work with unions, especially given its social justice orientation. Further labor strife would damage its reputation even more. For this reason, a longer contract was very appealing to the New School. This would provide them with long-term labor peace. This is precisely what the jazz faculty offered.

Additionally, Local 802 had developed a better relationship with New School management over the years, and I relied upon that relationship to make bargaining a more streamlined process. I’ve learned over the years that in some instances, much more can be achieved in collective bargaining through relationship building than by the exercise of unbridled power and force.

These tools were used to successfully accomplish our goals. To that end, after we completed negotiations on April 21, the New School’s lead negotiator wrote: “I thank you and your committee for the earnest and authentic work in conducting and concluding these negotiations in a fruitful, professional and collaborative manner.”

At the conclusion of the negotiations, assuming the deal is ratified, the jazz faulty will have achieved the following:

  • A six-year contract
  • 24 percent raise in the first year of the contract for both classroom and private lessons teachers
  • 16 percent in additional wage increases over the life of the contract for both classroom and private lessons teachers
  • 41 percent increase in wages from the current wage rate to the final year of the contract
  • $2,100 bonus for those who worked during the pandemic
  • $300 live performance rate
  • Payment for online training
  • Administrative payment each semester for course preparation that starts at $400 and increases to $800 in the final year of the contract
  • Enhanced job security for probationary and post probationary employees
  • Greater union access
  • Payday twice a month
  • Enhanced non-discrimination language
  • Ability to file grievances in Title IX cases

This deal is actually slightly better financially than the deal struck by the UAW.

I am extremely proud to have achieved this result on behalf of the faculty, with the able assistance of the bargaining committee and Principal Business Representative Todd Weeks. It is rare to achieve almost all of your bargaining objectives in an amicable and fair way. We did, but unfortunately, it took a painful strike to arrive at this point.

Below, please read some of the accolades from the jazz instructors upon the achievement of this deal:

Gene Perla: “Mr. Harvey Mars, our primary negotiator, was spectacular with his vision and ability to keep our entire negotiating committee clearly informed and on point. His steadfastness permeated our deliberations which resulted in our achieving grand success. Thank you, Harvey!”

David Glasser: “Thank you (and all our colleagues) so much for your dedication and hard work during these and the UAW negotiations. This was without a doubt the most trying and difficult negotiation of our contract. On the heels of the pandemic and through the 7902 strike you and the committee’s communication and dedication were monumental and absolutely must be acknowledged. Kudos and unsurpassed thanks to you all.”

Rachel Z: “Dear ALL the negotiators, I feel that you have got a historic win here. It was your tenacity that achieved this. It reset the relationship with the school in a very positive way. Amazing!”

Marcos Varela: “Woo-hoo!”

Ed MacEachen: “Great work: thank you!”

Nir Felder: “Bravo!”

Emilio Solla: “Great! Congrats to everyone involved, and thank you!”

Billy Martin: “Thank you so much!”

Sara Serpa: “Amazing!”

Brittany Anjou: “Thank you all for your hard work! Much appreciation and gratitude.”

Jay Bianchi: “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you! Wonderful work!”

Kate Baker: “I just have to say Harvey killed it!”

Richard Barone: “Congratulations and gratitude, brotherhood, and sisterhood to all!”

Caroline Davis: “Congratulations to all and thank you to the negotiating committee and all those involved for creating a reality.”

Adam Holzman: “Thanks everybody!”

Ross Wightman: “HUGE thanks so much for all of your hard work and care!”

Fay Victor: “How amazing! Much gratitude to all.”

Michele Rosewoman: “Thanks to all who worked so hard for this. A victory indeed.”

Dirk Freymuth: “This is a massive achievement. Thank you for your service, bargaining team!”

Amy London: “Thank you a million times for all the hard work Gene Perla did for the new contract. You were amazing! We could not have achieved it without your hard work and smarts! Congrats again! Let’s have a jam session, party at the union to celebrate!”

David Scott: “Thank you to the committee for your efforts — deep gratitude!”

Armen Donelian: “With deep gratitude for the efforts of ALL the committee members — both collectively and individually — to achieve this new contract. It is a great leap forward for our faculty and should help to improve both our working conditions and, of equal importance, our working morale. I hope that we can gather to celebrate and congratulate the committee.”

Rez Abbasi: “❤️🙏”

Steve Cardenas: “Deepest gratitude. Thanks so much Arun Luthra and the bargaining committee!”

Brian Marsalla: “Thank you to everyone on this incredible victory! Deepest gratitude for all the work and dedication.”

Ed Neumeister: “Thank you for your dedication and hard work.”

Peter Zak: “Amazing accomplishment! Thank you to all of you.”

Marc Mommaas: “What an amazing accomplishment. This would not have happened without the dedication, countless hours of work, persistence, and vision of the New School and Local 802. Fantastic!”