Boston Adjuncts Divided On Whether To Unionize

The Service Employees International Union saw both a win and loss in the Boston-area this week. Adjunct faculty at Bentley University narrowly voted against joining a union within days of Lesley University’s part-time professors filing a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to try and form one.

Lesley’s adjunct and part-time professors are looking to Tufts for inspiration. Faculty at the nearby university unionized in September, asking for cost of living increases, longer contracts and continued health coverage.

Stella Johnson, a photography instructor at Lesley, shared in a release that adjuncts are “excited and encouraged” by Tufts’ outcome. “By strengthening the support for part-time faculty, we will improve the educational experience,” she said. “And, as a result, advance enrollment and retention. We look forward to working together with the administration to solving the issues that confront our campus and profession and give higher education a brighter future.”

Tenure-track salaries average $66,000, according to the American Association of University Professors. Adjunct faculty are pocketing roughly $2,700 per three-credit course, however. At four courses per semester, their salary is ringing in at $21,600 annually in comparison. Beyond less pay, part-time professors also aren’t guaranteed employment.

“The problem for me and a lot of adjuncts is you never know if you’re going to have work,” said Doug Kierdorf, an adjunct professor in Bentley’s History Department, in a statement earlier this year.

Bentley’s adjunct faculty members lost the chance to unionize by two votes, however, according to the Boston Business Journal. Yet, there has been discussion around organizing another effort.

The National Labor Relations Board will determine the date of Lesley’s election. Faculty are already ready to head to the ballot box, though.

“We have worked hard to reach this moment, and we can’t wait to vote yes,” said Jennifer Navarro, an adjunct professor in Expressive Therapies, in a statement. “It’s an exciting time as adjunct faculty in Boston, and across America, are finding that we are stronger together.”

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