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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August

Brandeis Grad Workers reach historic contract settlement with university

In a major victory for graduate workers organizing across the country, graduate workers at Brandeis University today announced that they have reached a tentative contract settlement with the university. The announced three-year tentative agreement is the first contract for graduate student workers at a private university since the 2016 NLRB decision that gave them the right to unionize. Brandeis graduate assistants also now have the first grad worker collective bargaining agreement at a private university in New England.

“Our teaching conditions are our students’ learning conditions. We want to be paid fairly for the jobs we do, and it’s important to be able to safely deal with conflicts in the workplace: both on behalf of our students and for ourselves,” said Kalee Hall, a graduate student in English at Brandeis. “We are committed to making Brandeis better, and the Administration is too. This contract shows how we can make Brandeis better by all working together and negotiating.”

The three-year agreement improves wages by up to 56% over the life of the contract and gives graduate workers access to the same professional development opportunities as faculty, academic freedom and workplace protections, and a voice in the decisions that affect their work.

“We’re the workers that make Brandeis work. With this contract, we’re being recognized for the valuable work that we do. We’re going to have a seat at the table and get the respect we deserve,” said Ben Kreider, a graduate student at the Heller School for Social Policy at Brandeis. “I feel very proud of the work we’ve done and the gains we’ve made on behalf of student workers.”

These achievements are the result of ten months of bargaining between graduate workers and administrators from the University. The tentative settlement is subject to a ratification vote by members of the union. They will join the other members of  SEIU Local 509 with higher education contracts, including part- and full-time faculty at Bentley, Boston University, Brandeis, Lesley, Northeastern and Tufts.

Read more in Boston Globe.

Read More Aug 28, 2018
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August

FORDHAM FACULTY RATIFY FIRST CONTRACT, WIN 67%-90% RAISES FOR A MAJORITY OF ADJUNCTS

Fordham’s new three-year contract secures wage increases that rank among the highest ever won in a first contract by the more than 50,000 non-tenure track faculty affiliated with SEIU. For most adjunct faculty, pay will rise between 67% to 90%, with a majority of adjuncts receiving between $7,000 to $8,000 per course by the third year of the contract, depending on how long they have taught at Fordham. The contract sets a new minimum annual salary of $64,000 by the third year of the contract for full-time, non-tenure-track faculty with full course loads, an increase of roughly $14,000 for some of the lowest paid full-timers at Fordham.

Read More Aug 14, 2018
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August

University of Iowa non-tenure track faculty win health insurance and coverage for dependents

Despite national and local attacks on unions, including the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case, non-tenure track (NTT) faculty at the University of Iowa were able to win expanded benefits for ‘visiting’ faculty members, including health insurance, dependent coverage, retirement, and sick leave. The victory comes after a months-long direct action campaign, including a sit-in at the school president’s office, to secure meetings with high-level university leaders, including President Bruce Harreld, to improve wages, benefits and job security.

“This is a fundamentally important policy change that will make a positive difference in the lives of visiting faculty like me,” said Faye Bartram, a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at the university. “This past year, I spent nine months unable to sit down due to chronic pain. Ultimately, the issue was resolved after just one trip to the emergency room, which cost me $2,000 out of pocket without insurance. If I had had health insurance, as I would under the new policy, I could have simply gone to the doctor when the problem first arose. I am glad that we were able to work with the administration to improve the well-being of University faculty and their families so that we can have the stability and peace of mind we need to focus on our students and pedagogical methodology.”

This victory is the latest milestone for the NTT faculty who are prevented from forming a union through the traditional process because of a controversial state law that limits public sector workers from unionizing. In the face of attacks that seek to limit working people’s ability come together for change and bargain collectively, faculty at the University of Iowa have decided to become associate members of SEIU and organize for change by pushing the administration to do the right thing. Previously, NTT faculty marched on the president’s house and staged a 10-plus hour sit-in at the office of President Bruce Harreld to demand a meeting to discuss their need for better wages, job security, adequate health care and respect. Since then, the faculty have been meeting with administrators on an ongoing basis to address their demands.

Read more here

Read More Aug 13, 2018
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July

Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum teams up with adjuncts professors to fight hunger at Miami Dade College

On Monday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and current Mayor of Tallahassee Andrew Gillum joined Faculty Forward adjunct faculty from across Florida to deliver food to Miami Dade College’s food bank, which serves students and faculty in need. The event included a roundtable discussion where adjuncts highlighted the need for greater investment in Florida’s public colleges and universities as students and adjuncts struggle with student debt and poverty wages.

The food pantry itself served as a backdrop for discussing the role Florida colleges play in creating food insecurity for students and contingent faculty given the rapid rising cost of student tuition and the stagnant, low pay for adjuncts.

Gillum listened and responded to questions and heartfelt accounts by adjuncts  that are dedicated to their work and students, but struggle to make ends meet in a system that is rigged against them.

“The sham the we created to use adjuncts so as not to pay for full time professors needs to come to an end,” said Gillum. “Let’s fully fund out colleges and universities to the state that they deserve.”

Once seen as the gateway to the middle class, the defunding of Florida’s universities and colleges has turned higher education into a pipeline to poverty. Floridians struggle with nearly $80 billion in student loan debt, while one in four adjunct professors report being food insecure. Across Florida, adjuncts are fighting for fully-funded tuition-free college, student loan forgiveness and a minimum of $15 an hour and a union voice for all campus employees.

Read More Jul 24, 2018
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July

McDaniel adjuncts stand defiant in the face of anti-union attacks at the federal level, win a strong contract that will improve the lives of their families and their campus communities

Adjunct faculty at McDaniel overwhelmingly ratified their first union contract, winning a three percent retroactive pay increase for courses, another raise in 2019, a professional development fund, a tuition-free course for every course taught, free parking, access to other amenities provided to full-time faculty and increased job security.

Prior to the contract, adjunct faculty had no assurance of being reappointed, even if they had taught for many years at McDaniel College. Nor did they have any recourse if they were terminated or disciplined during the semester. Their new union contract offers job security through three related provisions and a process for fair evaluation of adjunct faculty members’ teaching.

McDaniel adjuncts won a three percent increase of their rate of compensation for courses, lessons, labs and other payments made to adjuncts. The increases are also going to be retroactive to adjuncts hired on or after January 3, 2018. In May 2019, adjuncts who have taught for McDaniel College during five or more academic years will earn a further three percent increase. Adjunct faculty members are also now eligible to make contributions to a TIAA 403(b) retirement plan.

In their new contract, McDaniel adjuncts won a $10,000 Professional Development Fund where they can be reimbursed up to $350 each academic year for professional development expenditures. Additionally, adjunct faculty members are now able to take a course at McDaniel College tuition free for every course taught. They also won free parking on the McDaniel Westminster, Maryland campus, as well as access to library services, the campus post office, campus sports and recreational facilities, the café and dining hall at faculty discount prices, the campus bookstore, and other campus event discounts otherwise made available to regular full-time faculty members.

Read More Jul 05, 2018
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July

Adjuncts at Miami Dade College file for their union, join statewide movement with sights set on Tallahassee

In the face of continuous attacks on working people, Miami Dade College (MDC) adjunct faculty members have joined the rising tide of Florida educators organizing for a stronger voice on campus and in the state’s capital Monday as they filled for their union election. An astounding 81 percent of MDC faculty are both part-time and contingent, and many are paid well under $20,000 a year.

"As an educator, we're being attacked from all sides. The Supreme Court is trying to limit our power. Politicians are cutting investment in colleges and universities," said Shelley Dockery, an adjunct graphic arts design instructor at MDC’s North Campus. "That's why it's more important now than ever to come together with our colleagues to have a voice on our campus and in Tallahassee." 

In moving to form their union, Miami Dade College faculty join their colleagues at Valencia College, Seminole State College, Hillsborough Community College, Broward College and University of South Florida as part of a growing statewide movement of Florida adjuncts organizing to renew the promise of higher education for all Floridians. Adjuncts across the state have increased their calls for greater investment in the state’s higher education system, including tuition-free college, a minimum of $15 an hour and a union voice for all campus employees.

“It is no secret that Florida’s higher education system is in crisis. Adjuncts like me, some of us with PhDs, are being paid well under just $20,000 a year and our students are drowning in student loan debt,” said Alwyn Melton from the School of Justice at MDC’s North Campus. “We know these problems aren’t exclusive to Miami Dade College, but as the biggest community college in the state, it has an obligation to lead the way in solving these problems for educators and students alike. Right now, that’s not the case.”

·      Read more here.

Read More Jul 02, 2018
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June

Florida Adjuncts demand answers and commitments from candidates at gubernatorial debate

Last night, adjuncts from Broward and Miami Dade College joined fast food workers, airport workers, and others from Fight for 15 to ask questions at the Florida Freedom Forum, the first South Florida debate for the gubernatorial Democratic primary. Hundreds of people filled the Miramar Cultural Center to capacity and pushed into an overflow room to view the live stream. Laura Pierre, of Fight for 15, asked about raising the minimum wage. Nancy Fernandes, an adjunct at Broward College, asked the candidates about reinvesting in education, fully funding free universal college and ensuring fair pay for educators.

“As an adjunct professor at Broward College, every day I see the impact of a broken higher education system. Budget cuts in Tallahassee mean more families are drowning in the student loan debts and my colleagues, many with PhDs, make poverty wages,” asked Nancy. “ Will you commit to reinvest in education and educators by fully funding free universal college for all Floridians?”

The Florida Freedom Forum was co-hosted by SEIU Florida State Council, Dream Defenders Action Fund, Florida Immigration Coalition (FLIC) Votes, New Florida Majority, Organize Florida, Planned Parenthood Florida PAC, and Color of Change PAC.

To view the candidates’ responses and general coverage, visit the live stream video, twitter, WLRN, and the Sun Sentinel

Read More Jun 12, 2018
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June

Nazareth College adjuncts vote overwhelmingly to join SEIU Local 200United

Nazareth College adjunct faculty scored a historic win Tuesday, voting overwhelmingly to join SEIU Local 200United. The victory is the culmination of a year-long organizing campaign and a first for contingent faculty at a private college in the greater Rochester area.

“There are so many adjuncts at Nazareth who work so hard but haven't received the compensation that they deserve. This is an opportunity to change that,” said Jeanne Coonan, a lecturer in music and member of the union organizing committee. “Now, after winning our union, we can see a brighter future on the horizon for the adjuncts at Nazareth. This is a huge step forward.”

The organizing committee went public with their organizing drive earlier this semester and gained widespread support. Earlier this year, they delivered a petition with over 500 student signatures to President Daan Braveman’s office urging him to remain neutral in the union election. Local elected leaders including Assembly members Joe Morelle and Harry Bronson and Senator Joe Robach also sent letters in support of the adjuncts’ organizing efforts.

The win was one of the first union election victories in the Rochester area in years, proving a people united will never be defeated.

Read More Jun 06, 2018
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May

Loyola grad workers smile bright with dental coverage

Graduate workers at Loyola University Chicago secured a big win. Beginning August 1, Loyola’s graduate workers will receive free dental coverage, in addition to their current health insurance from the university.

This win was a result of workers uniting together to fight for the change they needed. It's just one win as Loyola’s graduate workers keep the pressure on the administration to recognize their status as workers and demand the university to negotiate directly with them.

Read More May 25, 2018
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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