The Battle for Adjunct Faculty Rights

From East Bay Express:

At Mills College, more than 64 percent of faculty members are adjuncts. That means a majority of professors at the liberal arts college in East Oakland don't have tenure or long-term contracts, and face a significant amount of job uncertainty from one semester to the next. Adjuncts also say that the low pay they receive makes it difficult to support a family in the Bay Area.

In an effort to establish better working conditions and increased job security, 78 percent of adjunct faculty at Mills voted in May to join SEIU Local 1021, the union that represents more than 50,000 public sector and nonprofit workers in Northern California. That means that non-tenured professors at the college now have basic union protections and representation. And last week, professors, union representatives, and administrators began the process of negotiating the college's first-ever union contract for adjuncts. Mills was the first private, nonprofit college in the Bay Area to have its adjuncts unionize and a number of other local schools are now following suit.

While activists celebrate this milestone, Mills administrators have, according to a number of adjuncts and labor activists, responded with a series of retaliatory actions. SEIU 1021 has already filed four unfair labor practice charges against Mills, alleging that the college has implemented policy changes without giving the union proper notice or an opportunity to bargain — and has retaliated and discriminated against two faculty members for union organizing. Critics say the administration's actions reflect an ongoing failure to support adjuncts and a level of resistance to unionization that contradicts the progressive values the college purports to promote.

"At Mills, like many other schools, the programs could not be running in the way they are running without adjuncts," said Stephanie Young, an adjunct English professor who has been working at Mills since 2004. "We are members of the faculty."

Read the full story here.