Mar 17

UCU Member Layoffs

Dear fellow UCU members,


As you may already be aware, six members of our unit were laid off today, as well as a number of managers and administrators.  These layoffs were in response to budget cuts imposed by Cooper Union’s Board of Trustees. The decisions were made in consultation with Deans and Heads of Departments.  The loss of these longtime employees is a horrible shock to our community and we did everything in our power to resist these layoffs and respond to this crisis.  

The unfortunate reality is that the administration is within their rights to lay off workers in times of fiscal hardship, so long as they do not recreate the eliminated position within a one year time frame. A layoff, as opposed to a firing, does not need to be “for cause.” Given this, our strategy was to try to reduce the total number of people laid off, secure as many benefits as possible for those people, and make sure that the layoffs happened in a way that was respectful and responsible.  We made a special urgent request for the administration to avoid the past practice whereby employees were summarily dismissed and then escorted out of the building.  We firmly believe that that kind of callous treatment of loyal, longtime employees has no place at Cooper Union.  

On Wednesday, February 15, members of the UCU Executive Committee and David Eng Wong, our Labor Relations Specialist, met with Bill Mea and Cooper Union’s lawyers to negotiate the impact of these layoffs on all of our membership: those getting laid off, as well as those left with potentially increased workloads.  We were not satisfied with the results of this meeting and appealed directly to President Sparks. On Wednesday, February 22, Laura Sparks joined the Executive Committee in our standing meeting with Bill Mea. Laura was sensitive to our concerns and listened to the UCU requests about lack of notice.  In response, she offered  to provide counseling and job placement services for those laid off, as well as some reassurance that the layoff meetings would be conducted responsibly and with sensitivity.  

We have guidelines and provisions in our contract that help and protect employees that are laid off.* In addition, we forcefully argued for more than the administration has offered in the past. This included more compassionate care, benefits, protections, and crucially, we asked for the fair and equitable treatment of all employees at Cooper, whether they be staff or management. In the past, managers have been given notice of impending layoffs far in advance (giving them time to wind up their affairs and in some cases find new work), while UCU staff were given no notice at all.

As a result of these discussions, we were able to secure some key additional protections on such a short timetable:

  • Argued that our ranks are already very thin and that impact on other workers would be significant.  Tried to reduce the number of layoffs, and members affected,  to the best of our abilities;
  • Pushed for two weeks notice, rather than same-day dismissals. Cooper’s lawyers declined this request;
  • Health care benefits were extended through the severance period. For employees who were close to retirement age, we secured a retirement healthcare package;
  • Negotiated option for members to roll into retirement when applicable;
  • A provision to return, at the member’s own convenience,  to Cooper to say goodbye to their colleagues and collect any items not able to be removed on the day of their layoff;
  • Access to EAP (Employee Assistance Program) services;
  • One month of outplacement services for transitioning into employment outside Cooper Union;
  • Access to mental health services and counseling;
  • Negotiation of the impact of work distribution, additional responsibilities, compensation, job title changes of existing positions and any new positions created;

We argued forcefully for better procedures to allow people until end of day to remove personal items and leave campus without an escort. The administration, citing safety and security concerns, would not change this policy, which was incredibly disappointing.

We understand that our work is far from done.  Many of you will be directly affected by what has happened today and will undoubtedly have questions and concerns regarding future workloads and compensation for additional duties. The UCU will be there to suport you in these upcoming conversations with your managers and the administration.  In the interim, we want to hear your concerns and are available to answer questions about the layoffs or any other employment matters.  

Please email us at memberucu@gmail.com and we will get back to you  promptly. We are available to meet with anyone individually or in groups to discuss the implications of what has happend today.

In Solidarity,

The UCU Leadership

Wayne Adams

Katie Blumenkrantz

Kimberly Bowers

Tory Boyd

Cara Di Edwardo

Victoria Heinz

Marget Long

Christine McCann

Lawrence Mesich

Eric Monasterio

Brian Murell

Kressent Pottenger

Joe Riley

Amy Westpfahl



  1. A. Members of the bargaining unit will be paid for accrued and unused vacation upon resignation, retirement, or termination.
  2. B. Upon execution of a general release, members of the bargaining unit will receive severance pay in the event of a layoff as follows: employees with O – 2 years of service, two (2) week’s pay; employees with over 2 but under 5 years of service, one week’s pay for each year of service; employees with over 5 but under 10 years of service, 1 1/2 week’s pay for each year of service; employees with more than 10 years of service, 2 week’s pay for each year of service to a maximum of 52 week’s pay.

Apr 16

Newsletter April 2016

Please click on the link below to see our most recent newsletter!

UCU Newsletter April 2016

Sep 15

UCU Contract 2013-2017

2013-17 UCU Contract

Dec 13

Newsletter December 2013

Newsletter December 2013

Aug 11

Contract points for ratification 2010 – 2013

New Contract for ratification

Apr 11


The election of Union @ Cooper Union officers and Area Representatives will be conducted at the date, time, and place below:

Date: Monday, May 9th 2011

Time: Noon – 6pm

Place: 201A New Academic Building

To meet the needs of members who work part-time or may not be able to vote in person, the Elections Committee has also established a protocol for absentee voting.  The absentee ballot is a secret ballot that must be marked and returned by mail to the Election Committee PO Box. (A pre-addressed stamped envelope is provided.)

All absentee ballots must be received by election day, May 9th, 2011.  If you wish to cast an absentee ballot, you must obtain one in person from:

Zach Poff, Chair of the Elections Committee
(School of Art Film/Video Office, 5th FL Foundation Building) call x238
Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri 10am – 6pm (Sorry, no Tuesdays)

You may also contact Daniel Morris, election committee member
(Type Shop, 5th FL Foundation Building) Tuesday – Thursday – or call x256.

Apr 11

General Membership Meeting

The next General Membership meeting for the Union @ Cooper Union will be held on Friday, April 29, noon -2pm in the Peter Cooper Suite.  Lunch will be provided.


Negotiations:  Negotiations are over.  We will discuss what the team has negotiated.

Elections for May 9th.  Nominations for union officers will be accepted through April 29th through the end of the meeting.  Please see the Elections notice.

Grievance committee

Financial Report.

General business

Apr 11

April 2011 Newsletter

Download PDF

Apr 11

Public Program: “Do Unions Still Matter?”

Amidst recent debates about collective bargaining and the sustainability of pensions and other benefits in tough economic times, unions are increasingly under suspicion and attack. In today’s service-based economy, do unions still make sense, or are they a vestige of an industrial past? Should young people care about protecting unions and bargaining rights? How do workers centers and other forms of worker organizing relate to unions? Join academics and labor organizers for an interactive, thought-provoking exploration of these and other issues.

Apr. 13, 2011 : 7:00pm

Louis Guida, Organizing Director, Workers United/SEIU
Ruth Milkman, Professor of Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center and Academic Director of CUNY’s  Joseph S. Murphy Labor Institute
Tammie Miller, Chapter Chair of the Family Child Care Providers of the United Federation of Teachers
Ed Ott, Distinguished Lecturer, CUNY’s Joseph S. Murphy Labor Institute
Barbara Young, National Organizer, National Domestic Workers Alliance

Moderated by:
Atina Grossmann, Professor of History, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, The Cooper Union
E. Tammy Kim, Adjunct Instructor, The Cooper Union, and Staff Attorney, Urban Justice Center

Organized by:
Kressent Pottenger, Public Programs, The Cooper Union, and Member of Union at Cooper Union, AFT 6420, NYSUT 37-901
E. Tammy Kim, Adjunct Instructor, The Cooper Union, and Staff Attorney, Urban Justice Center

Wednesday, April 13 at 7pm
The Great Hall
7 East 7th Street
This program is free and open to the general public.
Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis


Apr 11

Letter to UCU from Mark Epstein, Chairman of the Board of Trustees

Dear Members,

I am in receipt of your letter dated Feb 9, 2011.

The first thing I have to point out is that the Administration is
responsible for negotiating union contracts, not the Board of Trustees. The
Board of Trustees has oversight on the budget proposed by the
administration, and those contracts are part of the overall budget.  In
essence, the Board makes a determination if the college can afford the
proposed budget.  Salaries and Benefits account for the vast majority of the

That being said, I want you to know that the Board of Trustees is aware of
the enormous dedication and contributions of the staff at The Cooper Union.
We all know that The Cooper Union is a special place that we are all proud
to be a part of.  The Board members are so committed to the mission of the
college that they devote considerable time and effort on the various
committees with no financial compensation.  In addition, each and every
Board member donates money to The Cooper Union as an additional show of

Considering the facts at hand; a sluggish economy, the recent collapse of
the markets (somewhat recovered), reduced contributions, and increased
costs, I truly believe that the administration is acting in good faith.
The Cooper Union is not a government entity that can ‘print’ money. Just as
we all benefitted during the easier times, we all have to share some of the
burden during these trying times if The Cooper Union is to continue to
provide access to excellence to our students for another 150+ years.  That
is the goal, and the responsibility of The Board of Trustees.

This might not be exactly what you wanted to hear, but it is the truth.

Thank you for everything you do for The Cooper Union.

Looking towards better times ahead, Sincerely,

Mark L. Epstein (Art ’76)
Chairman of the Board of Trustees