From The Campanil (Mills College student newspaper):
Over the last month, Mills College has seen an influx of support for the adjunct faculty: flyers have appeared across campus alerting the community that the adjunct faculty filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB], and since, a petition asking that the administration remain neutral in the union decision has been circulating among students.
The adjuncts are being represented by the Service Employees International Union [SEIU], who filed the petition on the faculty’s behalf. The SEIU typically represents employees in the healthcare, property service and public service industries including janitors, bus drivers and nurses, but in recent months has moved to unionizing higher education institutions with the campaign Adjunct Action. Their goal is to create a nationwide union of adjuncts.
A recent article in The Chronicle for Higher Education says “the thinking behind the approach holds that sufficient union saturation of a given local labor market will not only produce big gains at unionized colleges, but put nonunionized ones under pressure to treat adjuncts better, too. Those colleges might be prompted to improve pay or working conditions to be able to compete for talent or, in some cases, to discourage potential unionization drives on their own campuses.”
So far, the Adjunct Action campaign has reached 10 metropolitan areas and 30 campuses, employing around 25,000 adjuncts.
Today, adjuncts account for a higher portion of the nation’s public and private college faculties than ever before. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that about half of the nation’s educators are adjunct, while KQED Arts and The Atlantic cites numbers closer to 75 percent. Either way, there is now a much smaller number of highly competitive tenure positions and a plethora of temporarily employed professors.
These contingent employees receive disproportionately low pay compared to their tenured colleagues and are often part-time employees, splitting their time between different institutions to make ends meet. Many adjuncts across the nation also do not receive any benefits, though Mills does offer health care for some adjuncts, depending on the contract.
In the midst of this disproportionate turn towards easy-come-easy-go adjuncts, a union is welcome news to many, as seen on the flyer posted around campus donning the faces and thoughts of several Mills adjuncts.