On November 16, 2020, staff in the Academic Affairs division of American University voted overwhelmingly to be represented by SEIU Local 500 as their union. They will now become part of the fastest growing union in the greater Washington, D.C. area, which is also the union that already represents adjunct faculty and graduate assistants at American University. SEIU Local 500 also represents the majority of adjunct faculty in our area.
The staff at AU began their campaign to unionize in 2019, motivated by concerns over high turnover and understaffing, fair pay, lack of opportunities for growth and advancement, and lack of transparency. Urgency increased when the pandemic brought these issues to the forefront along with access to PPE, paid leave, and concerns around layoffs and furloughs.Read More Nov 16, 2020
Adjuncts from Maryland’s community colleges have been raising their voices in 2020, heading straight to Annapolis to push for improvements in funding for their campuses. Howard Community College adjunct Steve Torres of SEIU Local 500 recently stood before the state legislature to testify why funding for the state’s community colleges must be increased. His message was published in Monday’s Baltimore Sun, laying out a powerful and heartfelt personal account.
Governor Larry Hogan’s budget has slashed the $36.4 million that was expected under the John A. Cade Funding Formula, established in 1996 to provide community colleges with predictable funding and students with affordable tuition. Instead, colleges will get around $18 million.
“After years of underfunding, we need to be increasing the state support for community colleges, not further eroding it,” said Torres. “This budget cut would push the cost burden onto county governments and students. We cannot continue to balance the state budget on the backs of local governments and our most vulnerable students. Our community colleges deserve better because they provide an invaluable service to our students and our communities. As an adjunct professor at Howard Community College, my perspective is personal, but not unique.”
He explained the many benefits that community colleges offer while continuously struggling to support faculty and students. “Every month I must make the choice of either paying my everyday living expenses or making payments on my student debt,” said Torres. “Doing both is not an option. How can an adjunct encourage students to follow through on their educational goals, when what those students see in the classroom are overworked and underpaid adjuncts?”
Maryland community college faculty took the next step in winning a statewide union. Twenty-five adjuncts and full-time faculty from community colleges across the state gathered for the Maryland Leadership Summit at SEIU Local 500 in Rockville, Md. Participants discussed the changes that are needed on their campuses and in their professions, what worker power really looks like, and plans to achieve their collective goals. Worker leaders enjoyed learning about the history of the campaign, the similar and unique needs of their colleagues, and how to have organizing conversations. Many also engaged in the on-site “Story Booth” where they crafted their quotes and took pictures. By the end of the day, worker leaders left informed, inspired and motivated to build the movement on their respective campus.
The summit was energized by the passionate testimonies given by adjuncts during the Senate budget hearings in Annapolis where they urged lawmakers to increase funding for community colleges. Further showing the power and influence adjuncts can have if they unite together for change, next week, adjuncts and full-time faculty will return to Annapolis to show solidarity and attend the Senate budget hearing concerning closing tax loopholes to ensure K-12 education is fully funded. The movement is growing.