Dominican Untenured Profs Vote to Unionize

From Marin Independent Journal:

Lecturers and adjunct professors at Dominican University in San Rafael have joined counterparts at Saint Mary's College in Moraga in a nationwide movement seeking better pay and greater job stability.

The lecturers at both colleges voted late last year to form unions, becoming the fourth and fifth private colleges in the Bay Area to do so in 2014.

Nicola Pitchford, Dominican's vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty, issued a letter to the campus community this week that stated, "A large proportion of those eligible to cast ballots did so, with the outcome that a clear majority expressed their desire to be represented by the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) in collective bargaining. The vote tally was 139 to 77. The next step will be for the union and the university to embark on negotiating a contract."

Pitchford concluded her letter by writing, "Let's continue to move forward in good faith and a spirit of collegial discussion and problem-solving, both in our everyday work on campus and in the contract negotiation process."

Lise Stampfli Torme, an adjunct instructor of communications at Dominican University who helped lead the union drive at Dominican, said, "It has long been said on campus that the low pay of adjuncts and the amount of work they do is 'the' social justice issue on campus. Finally, we took matters into our own hands and changed that."

Part-time and temporary professors now make up the majority of the faculty at many colleges and universities, and they are paid far less than their tenure-track colleagues, sometimes without health benefits.

"There is a huge difference between what a new entry, full-time faculty member receives and what an adjunct faculty member receives," Torme said, "regardless of the years of experience they have at the university."

Torme said an adjunct professor working two terms at Dominican can earn no more than $23,000 and receives no benefits, while a newly hired full-time professor will be paid $55,000 to $62,000 a year and receive benefits. Torme said full-time, tenure track professors can earn more than $110,000, plus benefits.

As the ranks of adjuncts have grown, so have campaigns to improve pay and working conditions. Also called contingent faculty, the adjuncts and lecturers at Mills College and California College of the Arts — both in Oakland — and the San Francisco Art Institute also voted to unionize last year. The colleges are in different stages of contract negotiations, according to SEIU Local 1021.

Read the full story here.