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February 4, 2015

Boston University Adjuncts Vote Yes to Union

February 4, 2015 | By |

Boston University Adjunct Faculty Vote “Union Yes” by a 2-to1 Margin

More than 2,600 Boston-area educators now united through FacultyForward/SEIU

Boston University adjunct professors voted to form their union by an overwhelming 2-to-1 margin today, casting ballots to joinFaculty Forward – a project of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 509. The vote represents a significant victory for non-tenure-track faculty throughout the Greater Boston area, with more than 2,600 educators now engaged in a shared effort to improve their profession and the overall quality of higher education through unionization.

“We started with a simple premise: If excellence in learning is the core mission of our university, then we need real investment in the classroom – in the equitable, sustainable treatment of all educators,” said Laurie LaPorte, a lecturer in Anthropology at the College of Arts & Sciences. “Today, with the support of our students, colleagues and community allies, we’ve taken a major step toward improving the learning experience at Boston University. Together we are stronger.”

With today’s vote, more than 750 Boston University adjuncts join a robust, nationwide movement to address the crisis in higher education – where educators’ jobs are increasingly low-wage and part-time despite tuition increases and growing endowments. The groundbreaking effort seeks to reinvest in the classroom, raise standards and improve stability through the Faculty Forward and Adjunct Action initiatives.

In Massachusetts, part-time faculty at Tufts University recently signed their first union contract, marking significant gains around compensation, working conditions and educators’ role in decision-making. Contingent faculty on the Lesley and Northeastern campuses also began contract negotiations in recent months, and union votes are scheduled among Bentley University adjuncts and Tufts full-time faculty in the coming weeks.

“BU adjuncts have made a clear decision, overwhelmingly choosing unionization as the best way to make our university a better place to teach and to learn,” said Dan Hunter, an English lecturer in the College of Arts & Sciences. “I am proud to be part of a national movement working for better pay, improved stability and a real voice in the decisions that impact educators and our students.”

The Boston University faculty election was conducted by mail, with ballots counted at the National Labor Relations Board regional office in Boston.

mquinn

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January 5, 2015

Adjunct Faculty at Washington University in St. Louis Form Union

January 5, 2015 | By |

Adjunct professors at Washington University in St. Louis have voted to join adjunct faculty at schools across the country in SEIU/Adjunct Action. Over 400 faculty members won their union today as ballots were counted at the National Labor Relations Board office in St. Louis. The victory is the first in St. Louis and a step forward to improve the working conditions of the increasing numbers of part-time and contingent faculty in higher education. 

Forty-four percent of faculty in St. Louis area private, non-profit colleges and universities work part time and 73 percent of all faculty are not on the tenure track. Adjunct faculty, now the majority of teaching faculty across the country, typically have no job security, no benefits and low pay that forces adjuncts to string together jobs at multiple colleges and universities to make ends meet. At the same time, revenues and tuition have increased steadily over the last two decades while spending on instruction has declined – and it’s adjuncts and their deeply-in-debt students who are suffering as a result.

Michael O’Bryan teaches in the English Department at Washington University.  “This is a great day for faculty, students, and the entire community of higher education in St. Louis and throughout the region,” he said. “This victory is an important step toward improving the labor conditions of university faculty and, consequently, the learning experience of the students taught by those faculty. We look forward to enhancing Wash U’s already exemplary record of service to its students and to the St. Louis community.”

St. Louis adjunct faculty are following in the footsteps of adjuncts at nearly 20 universities who have joined Adjunct Action in the past two years, including Dominican University, St. Mary’s College and Otis College of Art and Design in California who voted to join SEIU in the last week. They join faculty at the Howard University and Georgetown University in Washington, DC, Tufts University and Northeastern University in Boston who have all voted for unionization in order to strengthen their voices and improving working conditions for all part-time faculty in America.

Darcie Star teaches dance at Washington University. “By uniting in solidarity to form our union we are part of building a positive future and creating sustainable change for those working in higher education,” she said. “This victory gives a voice to improved conditions for both faculty and students, as well as offering a platform for communication of needs and desires of those who provide service to the future generations.”

 

Katharine Bullard

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December 31, 2014

California faculty from three campuses vote to join SEIU

December 31, 2014 | By |

Adjunct organizing finished 2014 on a high note in California, as more than 900 adjuncts voted to join SEIU at three campuses right before the new year. On Dec. 29, roughly 400 contingent faculty at St. Mary’s College in Moraga and almost 300 at Dominican University in San Rafael voted with sizable majorities to join Local 1021. The following day, faculty members at Otis College of Art and Design voted for their union, making approximately 250 instructors the newest members of SEIU Local 721. “This is an exciting day for the entire Otis community,” said instructor Andrea Bowers. “By forming a union at Otis, we’ll have the ability to advocate for students and our colleagues. We will all benefit from a supported and empowered faculty at all levels, and Otis will be able to maintain its standards of artistic and educational excellence.” 

Read more about the growing movement for education and economic justice in the Los Angeles Times.

mquinn

By

December 17, 2014

Activists Call on States to Take on For-Profit Colleges

December 17, 2014 | By |

“Activists have turned to state governors in a battle over the fate of students at Corinthian Colleges, the massive for-profit college chain that is in the process of being shuttered by the federal government.”

Adjunct Action/SEIU has partnered with Higher Ed Not Debt to bring greater accountability to the for-profit higher education industry, including delivering a petition today to ECMC in Minnesota calling for students to be protected during the sale of Corinthian College, a for-profit that was sanctioned by the Dept. of Education for major violations. 

Read more about the renewed focus on state-level change here

mquinn

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December 15, 2014

Minnesotans Calling for Justice Re: For-Profit Corinthian

December 15, 2014 | By |

Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit company which operates 107 colleges under Everest, WyoTech, and Heald brands, is closing or selling their schools after the Department of Education found the company ripped off students by manipulating job placement rates.

One of Corinthian’s holdings, Everest College in Minnesota,  falsified job placement rates and tricked students into thousands of dollars of debt, while leaving them without a usable degree. Everest was just bought by ECMC Group, an entity that’s never run a school before and currently makes its money ensuring that students can’t declare bankruptcy on their student loans.

In conjunction with Higher Ed Not Debt and SEIU, on Wednesday Minnesotans will be delivering a petition to the ECMC group calling for justice for Minnesota students. 

Sign a petition calling for justice for those students and read more here.

mquinn

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December 11, 2014

Adjunct Faculty Discuss Union, Future on VPR

December 11, 2014 | By |

Adjunct faculty at three colleges in Vermont, Burlington, St. Michael’s, and Champlain, voted in the past month to form a union with Adjunct Action/SEIU. Today, Genevieve Jacobs, an adjunct faculty member at Champlain College and  Sean Witters, a lecturer in the English Department at the University of Vermont, spoke to VPR about their experiences.

Click here to listen to the full interview. 

mquinn

By

November 24, 2014

Vermont Adjunct Faculty Vote to Form a Union

November 24, 2014 | By |

Adjunct professors at Burlington and Champlain colleges have voted overwhelmingly to join adjunct faculty at schools across the country in SEIU/Adjunct Action, with 80% at Champlain College (118 to 30) and 85% at Burlington College (23 to 4) adjunct faculty voting yes to a union. The vote was a significant step forward for adjuncts in Vermont who are working to improve the working conditions of the increasing numbers of part-time and contingent faculty in higher education in the state and across the country.

Over 40 percent of faculty at Vermont’s private, non-profit colleges and universities work part time and 72 percent of all faculty are not on the tenure track. Adjunct faculty, now the majority of teaching faculty across the country, typically have no job security, no benefits and low pay that forces adjuncts to string together jobs at multiple colleges and universities to make ends meet. At the same time, revenues and tuition have increased steadily over the last two decades while spending on instruction has declined – and it’s adjuncts and their deeply-in-debt students who are suffering as a result.

Throughout the campaign, adjunct faculty at both schools received an outpouring of support from Vermonters. Senator Bernie Sanders sent a letter of support, as did a number of city council members, state legislators, and the AFT/AAUP-led union representing faculty at the University of Vermont. Hundreds of students and community members signed a petition supporting the organizing efforts, which was delivered to school administrators.

“Ever since we started the process of forming our union, I’ve been feeling more and more empowered. I’m already noticing that we adjuncts are talking to each other a lot more, and we have a much greater sense of collegiality. I no longer feel marginalized on campus,” said Betsy Allen-Pennebaker, who teaches at Champlain College. “I think that this victory today is a wonderful thing for adjuncts, not only in terms of pay and job security, but also in how we feel about ourselves and our profession. Throughout this election, we’ve been talking about all the positive things that will come out of having a union, and that’s what we’ll continue to focus on as we move forward. I really believe that this union is a win-win for everyone. What’s good for adjuncts will also be good for Champlain College as an institution – and improving adjuncts’ working conditions is going to create an even better classroom experience for our students.”

Vermont adjunct faculty are following in the footsteps of adjuncts at more than a dozen universities who have joined Adjunct Action in the past year, including The College of St. Rose in Albany, New York where adjuncts voted to join SEIU Local 200United this summer. They join faculty at the Howard University and Georgetown University in Washington, DC, Antioch University in Seattle and Northeastern University in Boston who have all voted for unionization in order to strengthen their voices and improving working conditions for all part-time faculty in America.

“I am thrilled by the results of the vote and I am looking forward to what is to come for Burlington College and the wider teaching community in Vermont,” said Jonathan Auyer, who teaches at Burlington College. “The campaign aimed at highlighting the need for sustainable pay, access to benefits and stable working conditions for the adjunct faculty, and this vote is one step on the path to making these things happen. I really am excited to work with the administration, my fellow adjuncts and the full-time faculty in the hopes of continuing to better Burlington College by bettering the teaching conditions, which will undoubtedly result in bettering the learning conditions for our students.”

mquinn

By

November 18, 2014

ACA Webinar and Q&A

November 18, 2014 | By |

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began on November 15th. On Monday, November 24th we’ll post a video covering the most important parts of how to get covered. We’ll also be hosting a Q&A on our forum, with SEIU’s ACA expert Sarah Nolan answering questions on December 5th from 2 to 3pm EST. Post your questions now in the forum and join us on 12/5 for an informative discussion

If you’re ready to enroll, visit healthcare.gov to enroll by December 15 for healthcare starting on January 1, 2015.

mquinn

By

November 12, 2014

Webinar on Student Loan Forgiveness on 11/20

November 12, 2014 | By |

SEIU is co-sponsoring a webinar on student loan forgiveness on Thursday, November 20th from 12-1PM EST.  Representatives from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will lead the presentation on student loan forgiveness, what goes into Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, IBR/PAYE Forgiveness plans, and some state initiatives that forgive student debt – with an emphasis on how to get coworkers/bosses engaged in the discussion.

The presentation will  last about 30 minutes and will include a segment on income-driven replacement plans. It will be followed with a Q&A, and the link to access the webinar will be mailed out to those who RSVP. 

Click here to RSVP. Please share the invite on your social networks using the hashtag #debtfreefuture.

Kate Bullard

By

November 4, 2014

AAN Member’s Testimony on Adjunct Hours for Department of Education

November 4, 2014 | By |

Adjunct Action Network member Krista Eliot submitted the following testimony to the Department of Education (DOE) on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Read her story and submit your comments on adjunct hours and working conditions to the DOE.

Testimony by Krista Eliot, Adjunct Anthropology Instructor

I am a contingent faulty member–one of the new faculty majority who teach half of the courses offered on college campuses in the United States today. Although I love my job as an adjunct community college instructor in the San Diego area, it is very difficult to make ends meet. Community colleges in San Diego County typically pay their adjunct faculty $3,000-$4,000 per course, which means that I can expect to make approximately $35,000 per year, teaching the equivalent of a full-time course load at three different colleges. My husband is also an adjunct, and neither of us has employment that provides us with health insurance. We pay out-of-pocket for insurance for ourselves and our three-year-old son. 

In addition, we have a combined student loan debt of $140,000 – twice our anticipated annual income for the foreseeable future. We are in the process of applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but we do not know if our applications will be approved, due to the difficulty of demonstrating that we are, in fact, employed “full-time” in public service.

Although each of our combined workloads (teaching at three colleges each) equals or exceeds the workload of a full-time faculty member, we aren’t hourly workers, so it is difficult to prove that we actually work far more than the minimum average of 30 hours per week that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program requires. The matter is further complicated by the fact that most of the colleges where we teach pay us per instructional hour. This means that on paper, it appears that we only work an average of about 15 hours per week (the number of hours we spend in the classroom). But this is only a fraction of the actual work that we do – it does not include the many hours that we spend preparing lessons, evaluating student work, reading and answering emails, and meeting with students. 

In light of the issues raised by our story, which illustrates problems faced by thousands of other adjunct faculty with high student loan debt, I ask the Department of Education to do the following:

1. Preserve all existing loan forgiveness programs, and provide a reasonable method for determining full-time employment for adjunct faculty for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

The standard in the proposed Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act, which would extend public service loan forgiveness to all adjunct faculty for whom teaching is their main income, provides the fairest measure for determining eligibility, and this is the standard I recommend that the Department of Education adopt. Most adjunct faculty who make their living by teaching put in far more than the minimum average of 30 hours per week, whether or not these hours are documented on paper.

Another possibility would be to adopt guidelines similar to those issued by the  IRS for employers to determine health insurance eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. These guidelines credit adjunct faculty with 1.25 hours of work outside the classroom for every hour in the classroom. However, it needs to be recognized that the IRS number is a very low estimate. Two or more hours of work outside the classroom for every hour in the classroom is a much more realistic estimate of the real work that we do.

2. Extend PAYE to ALL Borrowers Not Previously Eligible.

All people with financial need and eligible loans should be included in the expansion of loan repayment programs like Pay As You Earn. Responsible borrowers who make payments on their loans for twenty years should have the remainder of their debt forgiven. 

3. Make sure that all borrowers are informed of their student loan repayment options, including any loan forgiveness programs for which they may be eligible.

 It has been my experience that most of my coworkers don’t know about their loan repayment options, or about the possibility that they may be eligible for loan forgiveness. The Department of Education needs to make enrollment accessible and easy.

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