Adjunct professors unionize, revealing deeper malaise in higher ed - The Boston Globe

WHEN PEOPLE OUTSIDE academia think about life inside it, we often imagine tweedy tenured professors who are blithely innocent of all earthly concerns. Yet more than 40 percent of the teachers at US colleges and universities are adjuncts — part-time faculty members who are paid by the course. Like TaskRabbits and Uber drivers, these instructors are in the vanguard of an unpredictable freelance economy.

Adjuncts on more and more campuses are responding in an old-fashioned way: by turning to a labor movement that, despite its flaws, is their best option for handling specific types of grievances.

Amid a national freak-out over the cost of college, marginally employed professors aren’t obvious objects of sympathy. Yet the surge in union activism among adjuncts reveals cracks in the American higher-ed model that universities would just as soon paper over.

via Adjunct professors unionize, revealing deeper malaise in higher ed – The Boston Globe.

If one were to analyze what goes into being an inspiring teacher in this sense, the list would include enthusiasm, charisma, a capacity to clarify and make sense, humor, kindness, and a genuine interest in students’ progress. Much of this is a matter of natural capacity; which implies that teachers are born, not made; and this in turn explains why teaching is so often described as a vocation.

via What Makes a Good Teacher? – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Remember to attend the Fall Kick Off Event for the Adjunct Union. We'll be meeting at the Innovation Hub on Wednesday,…

Posted by UMass Lowell Union of Adjunct Faculty (UAF/UAW) on Sunday, September 13, 2015


The anti-worker forces that are trying to break our union just got a big break from the United States Supreme Court.

This morning, the court agreed to hear the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association during its next term.

Make no mistake: This case is not about individual liberty or the First Amendment. It is an outright attack against unions to prevent us from representing our members and using our voices to fight for our families, our schools, our colleges, our healthcare facilities and our communities.

We’re preparing a national campaign to mobilize our members and communities across the country to fight for an America where everyone’s voice matters. Sign up to join when we launch later this summer.

This case would undermine our unions and challenge nearly 40 years of precedent—and the court agreed to hear it barely a year after it dealt a blow to workers with its decision in Harris v. Quinn. In fact, the conservative justices on the court used the Harris v.Quinn ruling to invite cases like this one, showing just how political they really are.

Friedrichs is being argued by the same law firm that tried to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and it is fueled by the same ideological forces whose lobbyists talk about driving a “fatal spear through the heart” of our unions.

In the end, this case comes down to a fundamental question: Do unions have a right to collect a fair share from the people we represent, to ensure that we’re able to speak for all workers?

The attack on labor by those who don’t want working families to have a voice has intensified. It has moved from the statehouse to the courthouse. But our affiliates understand that engaging our communities and our members, and organizing new members, are the key to repelling those attacks and growing a strong middle class.

I’m proud that, at times like these, the AFT is still growing. We passed the 1.6 million mark last summer, and that number continues to rise through the efforts of local affiliates like the Washington Teachers’ Union, which has worked to change the hearts and minds of 1,500 fair-share payers so they will become full members; efforts of workers like those in the Alaska Nurses Association, who voted to affiliate with us; and efforts of state affiliates like the Illinois Federation of Teachers, which added units from tenure-track faculty to court reporters to its ranks, and like AFT Michigan, which has held strong despite the so-called right-to-work law in place there. Educators at charter schools have voted to join our union this year, as have educators in states without collective bargaining, like Louisiana and Texas. This much is clear: Workers across the country want a collective voice on the job. 

While anti-union politicians like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker try to silence workers, we’re preparing a unionwide, nationwide conversation to engage all 1.6 million AFT members on the challenges they face at work, their aspirations, and how together we can fight the obstacles and reach those aspirations.

Commit to joining our campaign to take back our power and fight forward, when we launch later this summer.

As these attacks keep coming, we’ll keep organizing—because workers’ organizing and collective bargaining rights are the way we can rebuild the middle class, create opportunity and bridge income inequality in this country.

I hope you’ll commit to take action with us.

In unity,
Randi Weingarten
AFT President

Randi Weingarten, President
Lorretta Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer | Mary Cathryn Ricker, Executive Vice President
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The UMass Lowell administration and the UML Union of Adjunct Faculty, (UAF-UAW, Local 1596) are set to begin negotiations on a new contract.

Adjunct faculty at UML unionized in 2011 and were among the first of a growing number of Boston-area adjunct faculty to unionize. The Boston-area universities are part of a nationwide movement to address the concerns of adjunct faculty in higher education. Since 2011, adjunct faculty at Lesley, Tufts, Northeastern, and Boston University have all voted to unionize. A vote to unionize at Bentley fell two votes short of certification. Unionization is seen by many adjunct groups as a means to address the insecurity and low wages of contract employment, and to improve student learning conditions.

Dr. Gregory DeLaurier, an adjunct professor in the Political Science department and a member of both this year’s negotiating team and the past team, is hopeful that this round of negotiations will tackle a number of issues important to the union. “I’m hoping that we will be able to reach a fair agreement in a reasonable period of time. I believe we can do that. We intend to listen to the administration’s offers very seriously.”

The New Faculty Majority, an advocacy group for adjunct and contingent faculty, estimates that 73% of all college instructors are adjunct, up from 22% in 1970. Adjunct faculty often work on a semester-by-semester contract, without benefits.

Tess George, an adjunct professor in the Manning School of Business and Communication Director for the adjunct union, says that a good adjunct contract can make the university stronger and improve the student experience. “When the employer supports and values employees, engagement and commitment increase. We are all committed to teaching our students in the most effective way possible, and hope to work with the university to ensure that adjunct faculty receive full support to reach that goal and fair compensation for our contributions. We hope to work together to make our university a better place to teach and learn.”

press release June 2015 press release June 2015