PSUFA Celebrates 30 Years–and teaches us some lessons…

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In Portland, Oregon the Portland State University Faculty Association is 30 years old. I came across an article about the recent salary negotiations conducted by the union on behalf of the school’s part-time faculty. Interestingly, the union only represents part-time faculty who teach .50 FTE or less. (Those with appointments above .50 FTE are represented by the AAUP.) So, from the article about the somewhat fraught negotiations, which ended with union officials accepting five percent pay increases over the next two years, I jumped to the PSUFA website. On the front page is a simply brilliant time-line that shows what the union has gained for its membership over the past 30 years of representation.

When the union was organized in 1978, per credit hour salaries stood at $210. Somewhat confusingly, this is translated into a “salary” of $9,450 for part-time faculty. According to the union’s contract, the “salary” translates into 45 credit hours per academic year. Thus, a part-time faculty member would have to teach 45 credit hours in a single year to earn the full salary. This is, of course, a ridiculously high number of hours.

By 1996, the part-time faculty per credit hour salary had been negotiated to $479 per hour, and the salary to $21,555. By 2001, the salary for a part-time faculty member had risen to $26,295 and per credit hour pay to $571. So, between 1996 and 2001, part-timers saw their per contact hour pay rise 19 percent. Out of curiosity, I looked up salary rates for full-time faculty at the college for the years 1996 and 2001.

According to information from the college’s Office of Institutional Research, “average 1996-97 AAUP instructional faculty salaries were $55,790 for full professors and $39,810 for all ranks (after 12-month salaries were converted to nine-month equivalents).” By 2000-2001 “average AAUP instructional faculty salaries were $67,717 for full professors and $53,818 for all ranks (after 12-month salaries were converted to nine-month equivalents).” Between 1996 and 2001, salaries for all ranks rose $14,008, or about 36 percent, almost exactly double the pay gains of the part-time faculty during the same period.

By 2006, the part-time faculty salary reached $28,350, or $630 per contact hour. Again, according to data from the college, “in 2005-2007 average…AAUP instructional faculty salaries were $76,857 for full professors and $58,760 for all ranks (after 12-month salaries were converted to nine-month equivalents).” In 1996, the part-time faculty salary was 51 percent of what a full-time faculty member (all ranks) earned at the university. A decade later, the part-time faculty salary was still almost exactly 51 percent of what a full-time faculty member earned. A visit to the PSU AAUP website, and one sees that the full-time faculty represented by the group are asking for an eight percent raise in their new contract. If the full-time faculty get it, the part-time faculty salary as a percentage of full-time faculty pay will actually fall to 47 percent of what a full-time faculty member earns.

Over 30 years, the PSUFA has negotiated pay raises (though not as an overall percentage of full-time faculty pay), negotiated a health care fund (not health care coverage), tuition remission, a professional development fund and is working toward job security. I suspect most of the original part-time faculty who saw the union formed in 1978 have since retired. I wonder if the part-time faculty salary, as a percentage of the full-time salary, will go up, down or stay the same for the next 30 years. For what I can see, the union made significant salary gains in the beginning of its representation, and then gains stagnated while the union went after non-monetary gains.

I think PSUFA should stand as an excellent example of what part-time faculty may expect, on average, from union representation, and over what period of time. In any case, check out the union’s website and time-line. How does your union compare? I’d be curious to know!

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