INSIDE HIGHER ED: Notre Dame de Namur Recognizes Tenured Faculty Union

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In a rare move among private institutions, Notre Dame de Namur University in California has agreed to recognize a faculty union that includes tenured and tenure-track professors. A majority of tenure-line faculty members voted last week to join an existing part-time faculty union affiliated with Service Employees International Union. In the midst of that organizing campaign, Judith Maxwell Greig, university president, recommended to Notre Dame de Namur’s Board of Trustees that the university no longer invest full-time faculty with managerial authority, so as to legally allow tenure-line professors to unionize if they chose to do so. 

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NOTRE DAME DE NAMUR TENURED FACULTY VOTE TO UNIONIZE BY 85% IN PRECEDENT-SETTING VOTE

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Full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), in the city of Belmont, voted by 85% to join SEIU 1021 on Wednesday, May 26. These faculty will be joining their PT faculty colleagues that voted to join SEIU 1021 on April 29th.

“This vote by tenured and tenure-track faculty to unionize with SEIU 1021 is historic- the first tenured and tenured-track faculty to organize with SEIU anywhere in the country, and perhaps the first tenured and tenure-track faculty to organize at a private university since 1980. Our faculty, joined by NDNU students, stood up and fought for this hard-won victory,” said Kim Tolley, president of the NDNU faculty senate and one of the leaders of the SEIU 1021 organizing committee.

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ADJUNCT PROFESSORS AT SAINT MARY’S COLLEGE WIN FIRST CONTRACT

new job security protections and 14% AVERAGE raises over 3 years

(Moraga, CA) – Saint Mary’s College adjunct professors ratified their first ever three-year agreement on Wednesday, May 20. The new agreement makes major gains in fair compensation, rewards for work experience and job security.

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MILLS’ ADJUNCT PROFESSORS WIN FIRST EVER CONTRACT; INCLUDES BEST IN THE NATION JOB PROTECTIONS

(Oakland, CA) – Mills College adjunct professors ratified their first ever three-year agreement on Friday, March 18. The new agreement makes significant progress in job security, recruitment & retention of quality professors, and fair compensation.

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Why Is College So Expensive If Professors Are Paid So Little?

From The Nation:

As the fall semester begins on the small-town campus of St Michael’s College in Vermont, Sharyn Layfield is entering the autumn of her educational career with the freshman writing seminar, The Examined Life. Lately, though, she’s been examining her own career with both mild pride and disappointment. With a degree in creative writing, she’s been working short-term teaching jobs since her 30s, often skirting poverty, never achieving the job security traditionally associated with academia. Now in her 60s, approaching retirement age modestly in a compact mobile home, she’s helping build one of Vermont’s few adjunct unions to help colleagues gain the respect on the job she has long been denied.

As an organizer with a newly formed SEIU local, she acknowledges she’s “too old to benefit from the improvements for many more years,” but she’s organizing because “others have lived as I have—hand-to-mouth—and I want that to change for them…. Our goal is to be respected, included, and paid for the work we do; it’s that simple.”

With student debt and tuitions both ballooning across the country, a college degree is in many ways more expensive—or overvalued—today than ever. So why is the cost of academic labor—the kind Layfield struggles to provide every day—treated as dirt cheap?

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Your Boss and Your Money and Who's Your Friend

From Gawker:

You may love your job. You may love your boss. But if your boss has a problem with you getting the money you deserve, then the friendly boss is not your friend.

At the University of Washington, a group of professors is seeking to unionize the faculty. Their aim, the Seattle Times reports, is not just to seek better wages and working conditions, but also to enable professors to more effectively lobby their elected officials on behalf of the state’s beleaguered higher education budget. In other words, they seek the quite straightforward goal of being able to improve their own position—and (if you believe in the value of higher education) the public good, in the process.

The University’s president—the faculty’s boss—is not so hot on the idea of them banding together to protect their own interests. In a letter, the school’s leadership warned that (although, of course, they are big supporters of unions in general) they have “grave reservations” about this faculty union, because it would undermine the outstanding relationship that the school and the faculty already have, and besides, things have been going quite well, from the perspective of the bosses.

Ana Mari Cauce, the UW interim president who signed the letter, is paid a salary of $525,000 per year.

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There Is No Excuse for How Universities Treat Adjuncts

From The Atlantic:

In early June, California labor regulators ruled that a driver for Uber, the app-based car service, was, in fact, an employee, not an independent contractor, and deserved back pay. The decision made national news, with experts predicting a coming flood of lawsuits. Two weeks later, FedEx agreed to a $288 million settlement after a federal appeals court ruled that the company had shortchanged 2,300 California delivery drivers on pay and benefits by improperly labeling them as independent contractors. The next month, the company lost another case in a federal appeals court over misclassifying 500 delivery drivers in Kansas. Meanwhile, since January, trucking firms operating out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have lost two major court battles with drivers who claim that they, too, have been robbed of wages by being misclassified as independent contractors.

If you think you notice a pattern here, you’re right. After years of inertia, courts and regulators are starting to take on companies that categorize employees as contractors in order to avoid wage and benefit costs. With inequality and the declining middle class becoming major issues in the 2016 presidential race, politicians (at least on the Democratic side) are now also vowing to do something about the plight of contingent workers. “I’ll crack down on bosses who exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors or even steal their wages,” Hillary Clinton said in her big economic-policy speech in July.

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Pope Francis, the Labor Movement's Best Friend?

From CNN:

Pope Francis will visit America soon and become the first pontiff in history to address Congress. As we celebrate Labor Day, it's worth paying close attention to a Pope who reminds us that honoring the dignity of work is a cornerstone for any just society.

The spiritual leader of more than a billion Catholics isn't a politician or activist, but it's not hard to imagine him rolling up his sleeves and joining the "Fight for 15" -- a national movement winning pay increases for fast-food workers -- or standing alongside federal contract employees on Capitol Hill who clean and cook for the nation's powerful but earn poverty wages.

During a recent speech in Bolivia, the Pope sounded like a fiery union organizer.

"Let us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change," Francis insisted, highlighting labor, along with access to affordable housing and land, as "sacred rights." When he met with unemployed Italian workers in 2013, the Pope had stark words for business leaders dodging their ethical responsibilities. "Not paying fairly, not giving a job because you are only looking at how to make a profit -- that goes against God," he said.

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Like fast food workers, adjuncts deserve higher pay

From Flagpole:

The workers’ rights movement has exploded in the last few years, with fast food, agricultural and other workers staging strikes and other nonviolent actions to demand increased wages, benefits and better working conditions. One group of workers that has received far too little attention is adjunct college professors—those who are hired on a temporary basis, as needed.  

According to data collected by the Chronicle of Higher Education, adjuncts at one college and two universities near my home in Southeast Florida earn between $1,380–$3,000 to teach a 15-week, three-credit course. My own university’s published rates range from $1,500–$3,000. A national survey found the average pay for a three-credit course to be $2,700.

Given that the typical equation for calculating preparation and grading time for a three-credit course is three hours for every one hour of class time, it’s safe to assume that adjuncts put in a good 135 hours during a semester. That works out to just over $10 an hour for someone making the lowest rate and about $22 an hour for the higher rate based on the rates listed above.

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Universities that rely on adjunct professors pursue profit over academic integrity

From Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Many observers would agree that a lot of universities today no longer champion liberal education but are little more than academic corporations that bequeath to their graduates a degree in debt. Such debts often reach six figures and require a lifetime to remit while the lenders receive millions in interest and enrich themselves.

It’s been said that we often accept what we choose to get used to. Sadly, we have chosen to get used to the corporate university with its rising tuition costs, which are passed on in true business fashion to the consumers (students and their parents). How many families can afford tuition, room and board costs that often run $40,000 to $68,000 per year — and continue to rise? Unless we favor education only for the most affluent, the answer is that only few can afford college without extensive borrowing. This cannot go on.

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