|What's our Union Difference at . . .|
| I've been an adjunct at seven universities in the New York City area, including Hunter College and Pace University. I love teaching college students — it's what I want to do, even if I have to work at and commute to multiple institutions in order to patch together enough classes to pay my bills.
In my early years of teaching, I had no health insurance, so I also started working at Starbucks, since it provides full healthcare coverage for those working at least 21 hours a week. It was assuring to know that I could "afford to get sick," plus they provided all the coffee I needed to stay up and grade papers. It was physically exhausting, though, and a terrible way to live. Thankfully, a few semesters after getting my first teaching assignment at CUNY, I qualified for free health insurance, so I no longer had to open a store at 5am and make espresso drinks so that I could afford to see my doctor. I was able to get that health insurance, because the Professional Staff Congress — the NYSUT/AFT union that represents adjunct faculty at CUNY — negotiated that benefit in our union contract.
As an adjunct faculty member at Pace University, I am proud to have volunteered my efforts several years ago to the union-organizing drive and the first contract campaign. A medical assistance fund was established in that first contract, which has helped Pace adjuncts subsidize their health insurance costs. I hope that more adjuncts in other schools will be able to break out of not having access to affordable health insurance, as well as other exploitative conditions we tolerate so that we can try to make a living out of teaching.
Kathie Cheng, Adjunct Instructor
English and Women's & Gender Studies
Hunter College and Pace University
|Forming a union and negotiating a contract is the best way to address this and many other challenges that adjunct faculty face.|
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