From The Boston Globe:
No one would confuse the work life of a part-time lecturer at a private university with a tomato picker in the fields of Immokalee, Fla. But not so fast. Each performs piece work. Each hits a wall when trying to address marginal pay and working conditions. Even their salaries, in some cases, aren’t worlds apart.
Adjunct faculty members are the working stiffs of academia. They can hold their own with tenured faculty on subjects ranging from analytic geometry to literary criticism. But they work for little money, often in the $3,000-$6,000 range per course. Some survive by cobbling together four or more courses per semester. Even then, they might stretch to earn $35,000 annually. Yet their numbers are growing. From 1993 to 2011, the percentage of faculty members without tenure jumped nationally from 57 percent to 70 percent, according to the American Association of University Professors.
This is red meat for the Service Employees International Union, which has mounted successful efforts to unionize adjunct faculty at private universities, including American University and George Washington University. Locally, adjunct faculty at both Tufts and Lesley have voted to join the union. We’re not talking about radicalized instructors who run around campus chanting, “The People United Will Never Be Defeated.’’ For the most part, these are committed educators who are looking for fair pay, a modicum of job security, basic benefits, and a voice on campus. And more and more of them are discovering that nothing short of unionization will achieve these goals.