Adjunct professors at Plymouth State University (PSU) announced on Tuesday they have filed for an election at the Public Employees Labor Relations Board, which is the first step in forming a collective bargaining unit. The question on the ballot is whether the faculty is for or against organizing and becoming a part of a union — The State Employees Association (SEA).
If the majority of adjunct faculty members are in favor of organizing into a union, they will be able to negotiate with the administration as a unified body, rather than on an individual basis. Approximately 250 adjunct faculty members fall within this category and represent the majority of the teaching staff at the university.
Adjunct faculty members do not enjoy the same compensation, benefits, and protections as full time faculty, even if they are teaching a full course load. In making the announcement, the SEA said most of the PSU adjuncts are currently living at or below the poverty line. At one time, they out-earned their peers at Keene State College. However, since the adjuncts at Keene State organized in 1993, they now earn up to $500 more per credit than adjuncts at Plymouth State.
“Now is the time to achieve pay equity with our sister institution, Keene State College,” said Lynn Chong of Sanbornton, a PSU adjunct.
In addition to dissatisfaction with their compensation, many adjuncts feel they are viewed and treated as inferior to full-time faculty members.
“I want a union at PSU because I believe that adjuncts are an important part of the university, and that they should be treated as such,” said Jay Knowler, an adjunct faculty member. “Students often remark that adjuncts are engaging and interesting teachers, yet many of these same adjuncts need to work second, and even third, jobs to get by, due to the relatively low pay afforded to them. Adjuncts deserve a fair compensation package because they are critical contributors to the quality of education at PSU.”
If the adjuncts vote to organize, they will elect a bargaining team that will work with the administration on drafting and accepting a contract that represents the improvements adjuncts would like to see.
SEA is a union that represents 12,000 public and private sector workers in N.H., including the full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and staff of the Community College System of NH. SEA is affiliated with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a union of 2.2-million members in North America.