SARATOGA SPRINGS - Today, the Skidmore Faculty Forward organizing committee announced that it is organizing to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 200United in an open letter to the campus community and College administration. The announcement comes after months of conversations and meetings across campus talking about the need for improvements in the non-tenure-track faculty’s teaching and working conditions.
Ruth M. McAdams, Teaching Professor of English and union organizing committee member, said, “We are very excited to be taking this next step. We hope the college will agree to voluntary recognition so that we can get to the bargaining table soon. Our working conditions are student learning conditions, and improving those working conditions will be to the betterment of the whole Skidmore community—our students especially.”
Skidmore College relies heavily on contingent faculty labor. Including part-time faculty, the approximately 170 non-tenure-track faculty make up nearly half of the total faculty. They work with little to no job security, with a majority working on terminal contracts with no guarantee of reappointment for the following semester or academic year, despite being an integral part of Skidmore’s curricular needs. Full-time, non-tenure-track faculty make significantly less than their tenure track and tenured colleagues, despite teaching similar course loads and performing similar service to the college. Part-time, adjunct faculty have not seen raises consistent with rise in the cost of living, and those teaching in the performing arts have not seen a raise in years.
Diana Barnes, Senior Teaching Professor in World Languages and Literatures and union organizing committee member said, “For more than 25 years, I have taught at Skidmore on short-term, terminal contracts. This means, like most of my non-tenure-track colleagues, I live and work with the fear that I can lose my livelihood on a whim. While I deeply appreciate the College’s support of my scholarly and teaching endeavors over the years, my colleagues and I need and deserve job security, instead of working in an environment of endless anxiety. That is why I am excited to join together with my colleagues to unionize and collectively bargain a contract that addresses this and other inequities NTT faculty face at Skidmore.”
Skidmore Faculty Forward follows in the footsteps of other faculty at private colleges and universities across New York that joined SEIU Local 200United in recent years. In 2014, 160 part-time and full-time contingent faculty at Siena College voted overwhelmingly to unionize. In 2017, 800 adjunct and full-time, non-tenure-track faculty at Fordham University voted 16-to-1 to unionize and, in their first agreement ratified the next year, saw significant increases in pay and job security.
Kelly Bird, a SEIU shop steward and adjunct professor of Music at The College of Saint Rose, celebrated the announcement and said, “As a union member at Saint Rose, I have seen firsthand the benefits of unionization and the improvements it’s brought to myself and my colleagues. Now we have a seat at the table and I am excited to support my Skidmore colleagues as they organize to secure their own.”
Following the announcement, tenured and tenure-track faculty voiced their strong support for their colleagues and urged the Skidmore administration to remain neutral throughout the election.
Casey Schofield, Associate Professor of Psychology and former Faculty Executive Committee chair, said, “Justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion are all key values in the Skidmore community, and the precarious working conditions of our non-tenure-track colleagues are inconsistent with those values. I'm excited to join the rest of the Skidmore community to support their unionization, which will benefit our students, uphold our values, and benefit the College community as a whole.”
Skidmore Faculty Forward requested that the administration voluntarily recognize their union but intends to submit its petition to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sometime next week. On Friday May 6, they will hold a press conference on campus announcing the filing with supporters and community partners.
Faculty Forward is a national project of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and SEIU Local 200United in New York and Vermont. Its over 3,000 adjunct and non-tenure eligible professors teach at 10 colleges and universities, including Fordham University in the Bronx, Siena College in Loudonville, New York, and Ithaca College. 14,000 SEIU Local 200United members work across the federal, public, and private sectors, including over 6,000 workers inside and outside the classroom at more than 30 colleges and universities.