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Barnard contingent faculty union to vote on strike authorization

The Barnard contingent faculty union will begin voting to commence a strike authorization on Wednesday.

If the authorization vote passes by a two-thirds majority, the union—which represents 180 adjunct and full-time non-tenured faculty—will be able to strike at any time during the course of negotiations without prior notice to the college. In order to ensure that all members of the union have an opportunity to vote on the strike, union members said the voting period will close in the first week of December.

According to emails between the college and union obtained by Spectator, Barnard Provost and Dean of the Faculty Linda Bell has called for a “special” faculty meeting next Monday to discuss the possible implications of a strike, as well as the current proposals on the negotiating table.

The union, which has been locked in negotiations with the college since February, indicated at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Barnard clerical worker’s strike in October that they were considering the possibility of a strike, but had not at that time made definite plans as to whether or not they would be voting to authorize one.

According to English lecturer and bargaining committee member Sonam Singh, the decision to call for a strike authorization vote is a culmination of the union’s concerns with the college’s stance on negotiations and its decision to retain representation from the Jackson Lewis law firm.

“We knew that the playbook they were working out of was designed to push us to the test of whether or not we have the strength to strike,” he said.

Although progress has been made on some key non-economic proposals over the 19 negotiating sessions that have happened thus far, the union has expressed frustration over the college’s position on wages and benefits.

The college’s first economic proposal from May called for adjunct professors to receive $6,000 for three-credit courses and term and other titled faculty to receive $60,000 per year. It would not have extended benefits to any faculty members not currently receiving them. The union’s counterproposal called for $12,000 for three-credit courses, $72,000 per year for term and other titled faculty, and for the extension of benefits to all contingent faculty.

[RELATED: Financial feasibility hinders contract negotiations between Barnard and Contingent Faculty union]

Singh said that the decision to strike has been discussed among members of the bargaining unit since the summer.

“We wouldn’t move for this if we thought it wasn’t going to pass,” he said.

The consequences for students have been considered heavily by the union, Singh said, adding that the union would try to minimize the disruption as much as possible.

“No one wants to disrupt student educations,” he said. “At the same time, we really think the status quo is unsustainable and we do strongly believe that a short-term disruption would be very much in the long term interest of creating a situation at Barnard where teaching and learning could happen under much more favorable conditions.”

The college and union are scheduled to meet four more times before the end of the semester, and Singh said that the union plans to continue bargaining in good faith at those sessions.

“We don’t want to keep sitting at the negotiating table for another year,” he said. “It’s really important that the college understands that the union is prepared to strike if they don’t become more serious.”

Barnard officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Check back for updates. | @ACBandrowski


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