Unionization spreads across Boston, throughout country

From Tufts Daily:

When Tufts University’s part-time faculty unionized in Sept. 2013, they were at the forefront of a growing movement for better working conditions for adjuncts across the Greater Boston area. By now, adjuncts at Boston University, Northeastern University, Lesley University and Bentley University have also formed their own unions and have begun contract negotiations. According to a press release by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509the Massachusetts union representing these faculty, almost 3,000 Boston-area adjuncts have joined the project.

According to Dan Hunter, a lecturer in playwriting at Boston University (BU), Tufts paved the way for schools like Boston University to begin discussions about unionization.

“Universities look at each other and believe that it is a competitive market,” Hunter said. “When Tufts raised the adjunct pay, it immediately was an incentive for Boston University to raise the pay, and for [part-time faculty] to continue our drive to organizing because we could see that it was going to bring results.”

Low wages, work load, contract length and other issues such as access to university resources have impeded adjuncts’ ability to adequately teach their students, much less make a living, according to William Shimer, who is a part-time lecturer at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

Shimer said he teaches six courses per term, which is double the amount a full-time instructor would teach, yet he maintains a part-time status.

“If you put anybody in any job in this situation, you just cannot get the most out of them,” he said. “The pay is so low that you have to do what I do, which is stack up too many courses to be a really good teacher in any one course, or, you really are here just as a side job and you have another part time job as well.”

Shimer said that a union will allow adjuncts, the people who interact with students daily and understand the workings of the classroom, to make their voice heard on the administrative level. According to Shimer, the university has increasingly focused its attention on administration, overhead and expenses, despite adjuncts making up 52 percent of the faculty at Northeastern.

“Unionization is going to be good for everybody: for the university, because they’ll hear a voice that really cares about teaching and students … we can now have a seat at the table in a small way,” Shimer said.

Read the full story here.