Last month, the part-time faculty at Ithaca College began moving toward unionization with the help of Adjunct Action, a part of the Service Employees International Union Local 200United. Since the organizers announced their plans last month, the movement has gained support from both part-time and full-time faculty at the college. If the union forms, part-time faculty would be able to negotiate for higher pay and benefits from the college.
Unionization is a smart move, considering the relatively low pay of part-time faculty at the college. Nationally, part-time faculty receives between $1,500 and $5,000 per credit, according to the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in the City University of New York. However, part-time faculty members at the college make $1,300 per credit hour and have not seen a pay increase since 2009. Part-time faculty members also do not receive benefits.
Clearly, the part-time faculty members at the college need a union, because without one they will have no leverage to negotiate for higher pay.
Now would also be a good time for a union to form because over the last two decades, the college has drastically increased its number of part-time faculty. Part-time faculty currently makes up 35.5 percent of the faculty at the college, up from 20 percent in 1996. Additionally, 20 percent of all courses at the college are taught by part-time faculty. If this trend continues, the college will get away with putting less money toward faculty by relying on part-time faculty. If part-time faculty members continue to make up a larger portion of the college, then they will need a union to ensure they do not get taken advantage of.
Part-time faculty will also become more appealing to the college considering the current financial state: The full general merit salary pool for faculty and staff this year is 1.5 percent, the college faced a $4.6 million shortage from under-enrollment this year and is currently dealing with a decreasing number of high school graduates from the Northeast.
Though the college has taken steps to correct the budget deficit through the strategic sourcing initiative, many college employees are concerned about the security of their jobs.
Recently, the college’s facilities workers have been given more responsibilities. The college has made a point to not fill some vacant staff positions, so many staff members have been asked to take on more work for the same pay. With raises decreasing and staff members being asked to take on more work, it may be time for facilities workers to consider their options of unionization.
Some staff members have said people avoid discussing unionization out of fear of losing their jobs. However, if the college continues to stretch its employees thin, they may have little choice.
If the college continues its efforts to trim the budget, and finds the money to pay its employees fair wages, then unions may not be necessary on campus. However, if the college cannot or will not meet the needs of its employees, unionization may be the best solution.