Transforming Higher Education

Movement Milestones and Victories

We’re working to improve learning and teaching conditions and access to higher education, while standing up to end the trend toward a low-road, corporate-business model for education. More than 50,000 faculty and graduate workers are already united through SEIU Faculty Forward. Every day more educators, students and community members across the country are joining our fight to transform higher education. Here’s a look at what we’ve accomplished together so far.

2018 Victories

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April

Following strike Loyola faculty get big gains

After nearly two years of negotiations, a strike and a rally that drew hundreds of supporters, non-tenure track faculty at Loyola University Chicago overwhelmingly voted to ratify their first contract. The contract includes significant improvements in job security, pay and working conditions for the nearly 400 non-tenure track faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences and English Language Learning Program.

“I’m thrilled that my fellow faculty turned out to vote and voted in such a strong majority to support this contract,” said Alyson Paige Warren, an adjunct instructor in the English department and a member of the bargaining committee.

Read More Apr 27, 2018
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April

Seminole State College and Valencia College adjuncts file for union election

Adjunct faculty at Valencia College and Seminole State College joined the rising tide of organizing in Florida as they filed for union elections. Although adjuncts hold the vast majority of faculty positions at both schools, many are paid under $2,000 for each three-credit course.

“Teaching is a calling, yet I cannot sufficiently serve my students when I’m constantly stressed about how I’ll cover my bills,” said Jennifer Copp, an adjunct at Seminole State College who teaches digital photography. “Across Florida, educators are struggling. That’s why we’re standing up today and why we’ll keep fighting until we achieve the respect and equity each one of us deserves.”

In 2016, 75 percent of faculty at Valencia and 69 percent of faculty at Seminole were contingent and off the tenure track. They join a growing national movement of contingent faculty organizing for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

“I strongly believe in fairness and justice. Today, we have taken an important step towards achieving that at Valencia College,” said Ryan Rilea, an adjunct professor who has taught political science for the past seven years.

Read More Apr 20, 2018
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April

University of Iowa faculty march on the president to deliver demands

Non-tenure track faculty at the University of Iowa marched to the university president’s office to deliver their their demands for a union along with a letter of support signed by nearly 200 faculty. Even with the state government’s slashes to the higher education budget and attacks on labor, the non-tenure track faculty are still fighting for the respect and dignity they deserve.

Their top demand of the president: Support our fight for union rights.

“The University of Iowa is an iconic employer and the flagship university in the state of Iowa. We are asking that, in keeping with the university’s stature and influence as a guide in shaping employment relations and policy in the state, the administration stand with their non-tenure track faculty,” said Elizabeth Weiss, an interdisciplinary studies lecturer.

Read More Apr 20, 2018
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April

University of Chicago faculty win big improvements in first union contract

Non-tenure track faculty voted nearly unanimously to ratify their first union contract with the University of Chicago. After two years of negotiations, the administration agreed to important improvements for the faculty members and their students, including up to 49 percent wage increases for some, paid parental leave, increased job stability, capped language course sizes and professional development funds.

“We’re so proud that by working with our university, we’ve negotiated and ratified a first contract that will significantly improve all of our lives and make the University of Chicago a better and more just institution for all,” said Jason Grunebaum, a senior lecturer of South Asian Languages and Civilizations.

The new SEIU Local 73 members hailed the victory as an important landmark in the growing fight to improve higher education in Chicago and across Illinois. Non-tenure track faculty at the University of Chicago were the first in the state to win their union with SEIU Local 73.

Read More Apr 16, 2018
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April

Nazareth College adjuncts file for union election

Adjunct faculty at Nazareth College reached a milestone by filing a petition for a union election. After speaking to the press, a delegation of adjuncts and supporters marched to President Daan Braveman’s office to deliver a petition signed by over 500 students calling on the administration to remain neutral and allow for a free and fair election process.

"I support the formation of a union to obtain the collective bargaining rights so we that can advocate for responsible compensation, access to health insurance and other benefits, and the dignified treatment of my fellow hardworking professionals,” said Patty Lewis Browne, a lecturer in the Theatre and Dance Department for over 10 years and member of the union organizing committee.

Read More Apr 10, 2018
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March

Graduate workers and their four unions launch national campaign

Graduate workers with SEIU, UNITE HERE, UAW and AFT announced a joint effort to demand that schools honor the democratic decision of graduate workers who voted to unionize at their institutions. A number of these colleges and universities have refused to bargain with graduate workers in anticipation of the Trump Labor Board stripping graduate workers of their rights. Yale, Columbia, Boston College, University of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago graduate workers held a joint press conference and delivered letters from graduate workers and union leadership to their school presidents. 

Read More Mar 14, 2018
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March

University of South Florida adjuncts vote to unionize

Despite aggressive opposition from administrators over the last year, today University of South Florida (USF) adjunct faculty voted by an overwhelming nearly 4-1 margin to form their union.

“After a long fight, we couldn’t be more excited about today’s victory,” said Dana Corrigan, an animation adjunct. “We’ve been standing up for what’s right and it feels so good to finally have official recognition of our union.”

USF adjuncts, many of whom say their lack of job security and low pay leaves them struggling to cover the basics, launched their high-profile organizing effort in early 2017. Their resolve was bolstered when they lost a university colleague, Robert Ryan, who had signed a union card, but died before he was able to cast his vote. Despite fierce opposition from USF administrators, including an anti-union email and meeting series that garnered national attention, adjunct faculty remain positive about the prospect of working with the university.

Read More Mar 13, 2018
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February

Hundreds of graduate assistants file for union recognition at Illinois State University

On the same day the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that aims to divide working people, hundreds of graduate assistants at Illinois State University filed for union recognition with SEIU Local 73. Two gubernatorial candidates congratulated the grad assistants, pledging to expand union rights to research assistants if elected. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders penned a letter of support as well.

“I respect the critical work you do every day, and wish you the best in your efforts to create a democratic workplace where your voice can really be heard,” wrote Sanders.

Zach Buckley, arts technology graduate assistant, said, “People at the Supreme Court and old white men trying to tear down workers is old news. It’s the 20th century. The 21st century is workers coming together to create unions for ourselves.”

Read More Feb 26, 2018
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February

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry calls on Catholic institutions to heed pope’s call to respect workers

In a column in the National Catholic Reporter, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry held up the teachings of Pope Francis to urge American Catholic colleges and universities to join the church’s movement to make real change in the lives of working people. “Francis reminded us that ‘the first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples,’” she wrote. “When it comes to how people work and live in our modern economy, Francis has boldly called for ‘us not be afraid to say it: we want change, real change, structural change.’”

Henry wrote that many adjunct faculty at Catholic institutions face a precarious and uncertain future because their compensation is so low. Many are forced to drive long distances from campus to campus just to piece together enough courses to make a living. They also often face last-minute course cancellations that leave them wondering when their next paycheck will come. Despite high levels of education and credentials, they are forced to eke out livings at subsistence wages. In some cases, they are driven to extreme poverty and forced to rely on food stamps or even live out of their cars.

Henry pointed to Francis’ reaffirmation of the church’s longstanding support of working people’s right to organize unions. “Last year, he met with me and a group of fellow labor union leaders from around the world, calling on us to build organizations that defend ‘human values in a profit-driven global economy,’” she said.

Read More Feb 05, 2018