Ithaca College Adjuncts Seek to Unionize

SEIU Local 200United continues to make strides in organizing adjunct instructors at college campuses. The latest group of faculty that wishes to unionize with us works at Ithaca College.

The following is the statement they put out to the press in Ithaca.

ITHACA, NY —– Part-time faculty members at Ithaca College announced to their colleagues, on January 26, that they are seeking to form a union. Starting in the spring of 2014, part-time faculty professors began to create their union with Adjunct Action, a project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 200United. They look to file for their union election with the National Labor Relations Board in the coming months.

More than 200 part-time faculty professors currently teach at Ithaca College. They make up at least 30 percent of the faculty there. Many of the part-time faculty have terminal degrees and years of experience in their given field but they are not afforded the rights of their full-time colleagues such as fair wages, professional development, access to benefits, a more influential voice in the campus community, a fair process for class reappointments, and opportunities for full-time employment.

Brody Burroughs is a part-time lecturer in art at Ithaca College and a member of the union organizing committee. “Part-time faculty play an important supporting role at IC, teaching our courses with the professionalism and commitment our students deserve. A union would provide us with a voice and the mechanism to address, revisit and adapt to issues as they arise, and commit the college to an ongoing conversation with the 35 percent to 40 percent of the educators who serve our students so directly. This effort will improve our campus community, the quality of what we provide to our students, and allow for proper compensation for some of our life’s work.” 

Part-time contingent faculty constitute a majority of the instructional faculty at private colleges nationwide but go unrepresented in the shared governance of these colleges. While the presence of part-time faculty on campus has grown dramatically in recent years, their pay has remained stagnant. At the same time, administrative compensation is higher than ever before and student loan debt recently surpassed $1 trillion nationwide. These national education trends are triggering a rise in part-time faculty seeking unions across the nation.

Part-time faculty have successfully formed unions with Adjunct Action/SEIU, at the University of St. Louis and three schools in the Los Angeles region–St. Mary’s College, Dominican University and Otis College of Art and Design–winning their unions in the last 30 days. In the Northeast alone this past semester, part-time contingent faculty at the College of Saint Rose in Albany as well as Burlington College, Champlain College and St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vermont all won unions with Adjunct Action/SEIU Local 200United.

Rachel Kaufman is a part-time lecturer in writing at Ithaca College and a member of the union organizing committee. “Part-time faculty deserve to be treated and compensated fairly for our work, just as our tenure track colleagues are,” she said. “We teach the same classes at IC that our tenure track colleagues do, and our students expect and need the same things from us as their professors. While relying more and more on cheap adjunct labor may look like a tempting solution for cash-strapped schools in the short term, it is certainly not a long-term solution for a sustainable and thriving Ithaca College community. We all look forward to making our union official, which is a crucial step toward our goal of working with the administration to more firmly establish Ithaca College as a beacon of fair employment and excellent student learning conditions in higher education.”

Many full-time faculty members at Ithaca College are supporting their part-time colleagues in the organizing drive. 

Michael Smith is an associate professor of history at Ithaca College. “As a full-time faculty member, I fully support the right of IC’s part-time faculty to collectively bargain for fair wages and better working conditions,” he said. “Having taught as an adjunct myself early in my career, I know how unfair the adjunct pay scale is most places (including IC) and how vulnerable adjuncts feel. A piece-work system of teaching and learning diminishes the entire enterprise of higher education.”

The part-time faculty will continue to build support among their colleagues until filing for an election with the National Labor Relations Board. At this point, the NLRB will assign a date for the union election.


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