Adjunct Professors Fight Unionization Effort To Force Vote While They’re Gone

Jul 20, 2014 by

Even as adjunct professors around the country vote to unionize, some of them are fighting back against a major union’s efforts.

Adjuncts at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota recently grappled with whether they should take the same path as those at nearby Hamline University, who voted to unionize last month, according to Minnesota Daily. Hamline’s adjuncts were the first in the state to do so.

Hamline has raised tuition by 50 percent since 2006 but adjuncts haven’t seen any commensurate increase in pay, “not even a cost-of-living increase,” Swati Avasthi, a creative writing professor, wrote in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

“While we will respect the decision of the adjunct faculty members on this matter,” Hamline said in a campuswide email, unionization was not the “best solution” for resolving adjunct concerns.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has led the unionization effort through its Adjunct Action project, which says it has unionized more than 21,000 adjuncts nationwide.

Ballots went out to St. Thomas adjuncts on July 3, the Twin Cities Daily Planet said. They are due on Friday and will be tabulated Monday.

Allen Aspengren has been an adjunct at St. Thomas for more than 15 years and says other adjuncts have told him they also oppose a union.

“I think they have treated me very fairly in terms of salary. There are no benefits, but on the other hand, I don’t need any benefits,” Aspengren, who teaches sustainable development, told the Daily. “I see no advantage to me personally to having a union in there.”

Joe Albright, an adjunct in the St. Thomas engineering school, went so far as to propose to his colleagues and administration a two-year delay in voting on a union, to give the parties time to come to terms on their own.

Albright told the Daily he was wary about SEIU leading St. Thomas adjuncts. “I think people see the union as [the obvious answer], and there I definitely don’t agree,” he said.

SEIU’s targeting of St. Thomas during the summer was “not by accident,” because “very few full-time or part-time faculty are on campus or even in the country,” adjunct theology professor Frederick Nairn wrote in a Saturday column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

A third of the adjuncts asked SEIU to withdraw the vote so they could work on a “climate of trust and cooperation” with the new administration, Nairn said, noting the school’s Catholic identity.

stthomas.EdUthman.flickrAnother adjunct theology professor, Marguerite Spencer, who served on the original organizing committee, said Monday she changed her tune after meeting with the new St. Thomas president, Julie Sullivan.

Sullivan has repeatedly stated a “strong commitment to improve the working conditions of adjuncts without union interference,” Spencer wrote in the Daily Planet. The dean of the College of Arts and Sciences believes in Sullivan’s promises, in contrast to his “disdain” for previous administrations’ promises, so “I changed my course” on unionizing, Spencer said.

But unions have been racking up victories this year.

Point Park University’s adjuncts voted to unionize last month, joining the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers, the union said. Full-time instructors, though, have fought for a decade with Point Park’s administration to unionize, the Pittsburgh City Paper said.

Adjuncts from another Pittsburgh school, Duquesne University, voted to join the same union two years ago but the Catholic university claimed a religious exemption to block that vote, the steelworkers union said.

Adjuncts want to “improve our working conditions and our working conditions translate directly to the learning environment of the students,” Maureen Sullivan, an adjunct professor in Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences and member of the union organizing committee, told the school’s Daily Free Press in May.

SEIU held adjunct “symposiums” in Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, D.C., last fall to plan steps for unionizing.

The union said it won adjunct votes at three California schools in the past several months – Whittier College, San Francisco Art Institute and Mills College – and that an initial vote count on Monday at the Laguna College of Art + Design also showed a victory. That school’s administration has challenged “a few of the ballots,” though, the union said.

SEIU did not respond to requests for an interview.

via Adjunct Professors Fight Unionization Effort To Force Vote While They’re Gone.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.