Frequently Asked Questions

1. Didn't it take more than a year for adjunct faculty at other recently unionized colleges to get a first contract?

2. Speaking of dues... what are they? Couldn't I wind up paying more in union dues than I get in a raise? How do I know I won't come out "behind" with a union?

3. What about health insurance? I heard that adjunct faculty at Pace University and Marymount Manhattan College didn't get very much in their contracts.

4. Who will be on the bargaining team?


1. Didn't it take more than a year for adjunct faculty at other recently unionized colleges to get a first contract?

Yes. In some cases it took quite a bit longer - at Pace University it took four years, for example. Though, of course, we'd like to be able to assist adjunct faculty in getting a first contract as soon as possible, we're more concerned with helping adjunct faculty get a good contract, and that simply takes longer. Depending on how long the institution's administration is willing to pay high-priced management lawyers to stall, negotiating a first (good) contract can take a significant amount of time. In all of the recent NYSUT organizing campaigns for adjunct faculty - Pace University in 2004, Syracuse University in 2005, Marymount Manhattan College in 2006, Cooper Union in 2009, Manhattan School of Music and St. Francis College in 2010, the administrations of the institutions were willing to settle contract very quickly, but the contracts they were willing to settle were ones which basically codified the realities that led adjunct faculty to organize in the first place. The bargaining teams for these new adjunct locals were not willing to settle for substandard contracts with a small percentage increase to their salaries, no other significant financial gains, and no real changes in terms of the professional improvements and job security and protections they sought. And so they kept at it until they had won things including:

*Significant (often double digit) wage increases
*Strong grievance and arbitration clauses
*Professional improvements (professional development funds, paid sick days, peer evaluations instead of just student evaluations, etc.)
*Medical Assistance Funds for those without access to affordable health insurance

It's also important to note that during the contract campaign, nothing much changes in terms of day-to-day life for the adjunct faculty. It would be illegal for any employer to suddenly pay LESS than they had been, simply because their employees formed a union. And, generally speaking, colleges and university administrations are aware of their obligations under the law. The legalese for their obligations basically states that,an organizing drive begins, employers are not permitted to "change the terms and conditions of employment" without negotiating with the union. In fact, in instances where the institution had been giving yearly (small) pay raises to adjunct faculty, that practice continued during negotiations.

And, of course, until the first contract is negotiated, ratified, and implemented, adjunct faculty do not pay any union dues. The only real difference until the contract negotiations are completed is that since adjunct faculty are unionized, should they run into some sort of problem with their chairperson or a dean - or any sort of disciplinary issue at all - they have the right to union representation if they choose it.


2. Speaking of dues... what are they? Couldn't I wind up paying more in union dues than I get in a raise? How do I know I won't come out "behind" with a union?

We can't give you an exact number for dues (mainly because the structure of NYUST/AFT dictates that the membership of each newly created affiliate union will have some say at setting their dues). But we can speak in general terms:

a) Remember, NYSUT/AFT (and most unions for that matter) have a policy of never collecting ANY dues until the first contract is negotiated, ratified, and implemented. So you won't be paying dues out of current earnings, you'll be paying them out of future (higher) earnings. When you vote in a union, all that does is give you (the collective "you") the right to negotiate a contract and some basic (though important) individual and collective rights in terms of union representation, should you need them. But no dues are collected for that. Just like the organizing drive, all the costs (and there are significant costs) come out of the larger union's (NYSUT/AFT's) organizing budget. Yet-to-be-unionized and newly-unionized folks don't pay anything. Period.

b) Technically, the only way you could come out "behind" after dues is if a majority voted to ratify a contract where the increases were less than the dues rate. So yes, it is possible to come out "behind" in a purely technical way, but realistically that never happens. Here's why: Let's take a huge leap of faith for a second and assume the incredibly unlikely possibility that the adjunct faculty on your bargaining team tentatively agree to a contract where the raises are going to be less than the eventual dues. Before that tentative agreement becomes an actual contract, the membership has to vote to ratify it. In the (remote) possibility where your bargaining team presented a tenative agreement that didn't get enough of a raise to cover the dues and then some, would YOU vote to ratify it? Of course not, and neither would any of your colleagues. That's why we can say with confidence you won't ever come out behind with a union. 

c) All that said, typically adjunct faculty union dues are pretty low anyhow -- generally they are the equivalent of 1%-2.5% of gross pay. Dues are only collected on the monies you earn at the institution where you are represented by the union. When you don't earn money at that institution (when you're not teaching one semester, as an example) you don't pay dues there.

d) Here are a few recent real-life examples:

*Pace University adjuncts ratified their first contract in October, 2008. They set their dues at 1.5% of gross pay. In their first year of their first contract they won percentage increases greater than 1.5% PLUS they won minima for the first time for all ranks. $850/credit for the lowest rank (Adjunct Lecturer) to $1250 for the highest rank (Adjunct Professor). They also won a newly created rank Senior Adjunct Professor with an additional $150/credit. In the first year of the contract many people were making several hundred dollars more per course and that doesn't even take into account all the other financial and non-financial benefits and protections they won in the contract. In the second and third years of the contract they won additional percentage increases. So, in short, they are WAY ahead of their 1.5% dues rate.

*Marymount Manhattan College adjuncts ratified their first contract in January, 2010. They all earn same rate since they don't have ranks (though in the first contract we negotiated seniority pay which will kick in for the third year of the contract). Anyhow, in just the FIRST year of the contract, AFTER dues were factored in, Marymount adjunct were netting $500 (aside from taxes, obviously) MORE per course than they had before the union. They won additional percentage increases in the second and third years of the contract, too.

*Adjunct faculty at the City University of New York have been represented by the Professional Staff Congress (PSC), a NYSUT/AFT affiliate for decades. Their dues rate is 1% of gross pay. In the last ten years CUNY adjuncts have received contractual raises of at least 3% every year.

 

3. What about health insurance? I heard that adjunct faculty at Pace University and Marymount Manhattan College didn't get very much in their contracts.

Anybody who reads the papers knows just how complex and expensive health insurance is these days. At both Pace University and Marymount Manhattan College a decision was made that - given the current economic and political climate - it was not going to be feasible to bargain for the colleges to include adjunct faculty on their health insurance plans. Instead those bargaining teams focused on creating funds that would help those who most needed it - adjunct faculty who did not have access to affordable health insurance.

At Pace University the creation of a 25K/year fund was negotiated; at Marymount Manhattan College (which has an adjunct faculty population less than a third as large as Pace's) the creation of a 12K/year fund was negotiated. The Marymount Adjunct Collective is currently processing the first set of claims from their fund so we don't yet have figures on how much applicants got, but at Pace University the most recent year's numbers (2010) are as follows:

Applicants = 11

Accepted applicants = 10 (one adjunct faculty member who had access to affordable health insurance through Medicare was rejected).

The awards were as follows: $625; $1205; $1251;  $2085;  $2085, $2294; $2879; $2982; $2962; $5630, which works out to an average award of $2499.80.

Is that as much as we'd like it to be? Of course not, and in subsquent contracts the Union for Adjunct Faculty at Pace (UAFP) will bargain for more funding. But an average award of almost $2500 is not insiginificant, and the fund is a good first step plus quite a bit more than what the university paid before the contract was negotiated (zero).

 

4. Who will be on the bargaining team?
Oftentimes, the bargaining team is made up of volunteers who were active participants (members of the Organizing Committee, for example) during the organizing drive. But that's not a requirement. Basically, the only requirement to be on the bargaining team is that you are willing to volunteer your time to help win a good contract for you and your colleagues. NYSUT provides all the training you need and NYSUT staff will work with the bargaining team every step of the way - both at the table (and away from the table) to ensure the best possible contract is won. Would you like to be on the bargaining team (or do you think you MIGHT like to do it, but you have some questions)? Call the Union office at 212-989-3470. Even though the votes haven't been counted yet, we are already looking ahead to planning for negotiations. Speaking of which, when you get your bargaining survey please fill it out and mail it back in. Those surveys are among the first things the (future) bargaining team will use in drafting the first set of proposals.


Do YOU have a question that wasn't answered above? Please call the Union office at 212-989-3470. Or email us at organize@nysutmail.org. If we think your question is one that might be relevant to many people we'll post it on this site (with your name redacted, of course) so that others can see the information as well.

 

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NYOrganizing / NYSUT / AFT / NEA / AFL-CIO
339 Lafayette Street, Room 202, New York, NY 10012
phone: 212-989-3470; fax: 212-989-8154
email: organize@nysutmail.org