SEIU-Affiliated Adjunct Union Pushes Siena College for Almost $5K per Course in First Contract

Non-tenure-track faculty at Siena College voted to form a collective bargaining unit affiliated with Service Employees International Union in June 2015. The vote was 86 to 27 among adjuncts and 16 to 5 among visiting professors. Siena is the second New York campus in a week to approve an SEIU-affiliated adjunct union, after Ithaca College. Both drives are part of SEIU’s Adjunct Action campaign to organize adjuncts across metro areas.

Mara Drogan, a visiting assistant professor of history at Siena, said in a statement released shortly after the union was certified that she hoped “the union would help set new standards for faculty pay, benefits and working conditions across the Albany region and beyond.”

Siena officials said in statement to the Times-Union that as a Franciscan and Catholic institution, “we recognize and respect the dignity of work, the right of workers to organize and the need for all workers to make informed decisions.” The statement said the college was committed to “productive dialogue” with the bargaining unit.

Fast forward to August 2017. Siena and its adjunct faculty still do not have a first contract. Per course pay is the final sticking point.

Adjunct and visiting faculty at Siena College are pressing administrators to boost their wages and guarantee greater stability as the faculty members negotiate a contract with the school.

The negotiations have dragged on since the contingent faculty members voted to unionize in June 2015. Representatives of the contingent faculty union said the per-course pay for adjunct faculty members and part-time professors who teach one or two courses is the last major sticking point.

“The big thing right now is wages for adjunct faculty because they are not fair at all, not even close,” said Amy Santos, an adjunct professor of business and mathematics and a member of the union’s neogtiating team.

The union represents 120 adjuncts and 40 visiting faculty, professors who teach a full-time course load but are only granted contracts one year at a time. The union and its members argue adjuncts and visiting professors need greater stability and better pay — calls that have been echoed across the country as colleges have become more reliant on part-time teaching in recent years.

At Siena, more than 35 percent of all faculty members are part-time.

The union representatives and college officials have held 21 negotiating meetings, according to the union. Some of the faculty members and supporters held a rally at the college on August 7.

In a released statement, the college administration said they were “making progress” toward contracts with the adjunct and visiting faculty members. They plan to meet weekly in August.

College officials have agreed to raise the adjunct pay by over 30 percent to around $3,300 per course. The faculty members are pushing for an even bigger boost, asking for per-course pay of over $4,600.

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