Adjunct faculty members working at more than 20 Boston institutions gathered on Saturday, 13 April, for a symposium to kick off the local coalition of Adjunct Action, a campaign by the 2.1-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to unionize contingent and adjunct faculty members. This meeting in the city with perhaps the nation's densest concentration of colleges and universities exemplifies the union's "metropolitan" strategy of organizing adjuncts from multiple nearby institutions in hopes of changing market conditions across an entire region, reports The Chronicle of Higher Education.
About 70% percent of the teachers at U.S. colleges and universities are working in positions expressly excluded from the tenure track, according to the American Association of University Professors. As a result, these adjunct faculty members often lack the job security, grievance rights, decent pay, health insurance, and other fringe benefits that their tenure-track colleagues enjoy. Many work part-time for more than one institution.
SEIU's strategy has already brought faculty members at a number of public and private institutions in the Washington, D.C., region into SEIU Local 500. The union also reportedly plans to target adjuncts in and around Los Angeles in the near future. The Boston campaign focuses on the area's numerous private colleges and universities, as adjuncts at many of its public institutions are already unionized, the Chronicle notes.
To organize a peripatetic workforce, a regional approach appears to make sense. It's not yet clear, however, how much influence it will have on improving the working lives of contingent faculty members in a severely overcrowded labor market during tough financial times.