What’s the latest on the Union drive?
Although a majority of adjuncts at TC3 signed “union authorization cards” last year stating their desire to be represented by the TC3 Adjunct Association, the College has so far opposed the union and has been insisting that the instead of having an adjunct-only union, TC3’s adjuncts should join the already existing union for fulltime faculty, an option which neither the fulltime faculty union, or most adjuncts, want. Because the various parties could not come to an agreement among themselves, on June 11th and June 12th, a hearing was conducted in Syracuse by a judge from the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the State agency which oversees unions and workers in the public sector. At the hearing representatives of the TC3AA and the Tompkins Cortland Community College Faculty Association presented arguments about why adjuncts should have their own union, separate from that of the fulltime faculty. TC3’s attorney argued the College’s position, that a combined unit of both fulltime faculty and adjuncts was more appropriate. Judge Carlson’s decision is due to be issued this spring and we expect him to rule in our favor for two separate unions. We expect that in part because a very similar case has been playing out at Cayuga Community College, near Syracuse. Last April another PERB judge, Judge Nancy Burritt, ruled in that case that two separate unions — the existing one for fulltime faculty and a second one for adjuncts — was most appropriate. Unfortunately, the Administration/Board of CCC chose to appeal that decision and continue fighting their adjuncts. In late January 2016 the PERB directors upheld Judge Burritt’s decision. Again, we anticipate the a favorable ruling from Judge Carlson in our case and we hope that, unlike their counterparts at CCC, President Haynes and the TC3 Board of Trustees will respect the judge’s decision and not waste more time and money on legal appeals. Read more about the recent decision at Cayuga Community College here.
How can we really know that a majority of the 258 adjuncts that TC3 said are teaching this semester really signed the authorization cards? Only about 100 current adjuncts signed onto that list of public signatories.
The public list of names only represent some of the adjuncts who signed authorization cards — many adjuncts did not want to publically reveal that they signed an authorization card and TC3AA is committed to following through on our original pledge to respect and protect their confidentiality. That’s one reason we did not submit the signed authorization cards to Administration in October 2014 and merely sent them a letter informing them of our majority status. (The other reason — and TC3 knows this — is that’s just the way things are done; unions don’t typically send copies of all the authorization cards, they simply inform the employer of majority status since both sides know such an assertion is something that can easily be verified.) But again, the cards were counted by a neutral party, the Reverend Richard Rose, pastor of Ithaca’s First Baptist Church. It’s unfortunate that, rather than accepting the will of the majority, TC3 chose to engage in a legal battle in an attempt to delay and ultimately derail the Union but that’s where we stand now. That said, it’s important to know that the TC3AA absolutely did gain the approval of the majority of adjunct faculty.
Why do TC3 adjunct faculty need a union?
For the same reasons that any worker needs a union — without a union we have no say about the terms and conditions of our work. We can lose our job for almost any reason (or no reason at all), we are “at will employees” without the right to due process. When we band together and form a union we build power and win the right to negotiate with Administration over all the terms and conditions of our employment. It’s this intrinsic power of collective action that is the basis for what is known as “the Union Difference” — the (statistically proven) fact that, across all industries and types of job — workers with unions make more money, receive better benefits, and have better job security that workers without unions. Period. This “union difference” is even more profound for women and people of color. Just recently the NY Times published an article reporting that the “Union Difference” even extends through generations. And besides all of that — TC3 adjuncts are the ONLY employees at the College who don’t have a union. We teach the bulk of the College’s courses, yet we have no voice about our jobs. Forming a union will give us this important voice we deserve.
What is the Union’s “platform”?
It’s still a work in progress — we are trying to reach all adjunct faculty members to hear their concerns and suggestions. So far the issues that adjuncts have told us they want to see addressed in a union contract fall into three broad categories:
1. Adjuncts deserve some modicum of job security (like multi-term appointments for adjuncts who have taught at TC3 for some reasonable period of time).
2. Adjuncts deserve reasonable and regular wage increases, just like every other TC3 employee receives.
3. Adjuncts deserve some benefits (like subsidized health insurance for adjunct faculty who don’t have access to affordable healthcare and tuition remission at TC3 for adjuncts’ dependents).
I think that all adjuncts should teach exactly the same number of classes. I believe that if I have more experience than a fulltime faculty member then s/he shouldn’t be able to bump me out of one of my courses to complete his/her load. Also, I think my class should run no matter what, even if I only have three students enrolled. Will the Union be able to win all these things for me?
No. If you hear something that sounds absurd, you should assume it’s a wild rumor. Though we have a ways to go before we are sitting down at the bargaining table presenting our proposals (which, by the way, will only be finalized after much more discussion and surveying of the greater TC3 adjunct faculty) you can safely assume that every last one of the TC3 Adjunct Association’s bargaining proposals will be reasonable.
Will the adjuncts having a union hurt the College? Will it hurt students?
No. The College already has three unions (one for fulltime faculty, one for administrative staff, one for support staff) that have been around for many years and during that time the College has prospered. The reality is that anything like regular wage increases, a modicum of job security, or access to benefits will help TC3 continue to attract and retain the most qualified adjuncts for years to come. That can only be a good thing for the college and its students.
C’mon, there must be some negative consequences to adjuncts having a union! What about course offerings and class size? Wouldn’t the college either have to decrease the number of courses taught by adjuncts and/or increase class size in order to pay for adjunct raises and any other gains adjuncts win in a contract?
There are already three other unions at TC3AA — one for fulltime faculty, one for administrative and professional staff, and one for support staff. If you look at their contracts (links available on the HR page of TC3’s website) you’ll see in those contracts that each year all three of those unions have negotiated salary raises and other financial benefits with the College. The College doesn’t cut courses each year or raise class size in order to pay for that; there’s no reason to assume that will happen when adjuncts negotiate a contract.
But what about dues? How much are they?
Zero, right now. NYSUT/AFT does not collect any dues until a first contract is negotiated, ratified by theTC3 Adjunct Association membership, and instituted by the administration. It’s likely there will be a membership vote about LOCAL dues (ie dues that stay within the TC3AA treasury) in the near future but that will be for a very modest amount — most likely $1 (no, that’s not a typo — only one dollar) for the 2016-17 year. In the long run, even when our first contract has been negotiated, ratified by the membership, and implemented and we start paying additional dues to NYSUT/AFT, they’ll still be very modest. Most NYSUT/AFT locals have dues somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-1.5% of gross and even less for those who teach very few courses per year.
I’m happy at TC3. If people feel there are things that need to be improved why can’t we just have a representational group of adjuncts sit down with administration to collaborate on solutions?
That’s precisely what is going to happen with TC3AA — we will have a bargaining team sit down with administration to work out solutions in a collective bargaining agreement.
What does the TC3 Administration think of the Union?
They’d don’t want us to have a union. Like most managers, they like the status quo, the one where they get to unilaterally make all the decisions about our jobs. That changes when we have a union — management will be legally obligated to negotiate with us in good faith and they will no longer have complete power over our jobs. That, in an nutshell, is why there’s been such a delay — TC3 Administration does not want adjuncts to have a union. The College unquestionably has the legal right to send the boilerplate anti-union letters it did last year, to force us to a hearing this last June, and even to appeal the judge’s ruling if, as we anticipate, it turns out to be in favor of our position that there should be two separate unions for adjuncts and fulltime faculty at TC3. The better question is does the College have the moral right to do all that, to spend taxpayer money to fund a high-priced attorney and the countless personnel hours it has taken to fight our efforts to form a union for ourselves? We believe they do not.
Couldn’t I get in trouble for supporting the Union? As an adjunct I don’t have any job security to begin with so I am concerned about sticking my neck out.
A turtle only make progress when it sticks its neck out. That said, no, you won’t get in any trouble for sticking your neck out in support of the Union. Though one reason many adjuncts want a union is to gain some job security, the reality is we DO have at least a little job security now — the law. Though it’s true you are an “at will” employee, and could conceivably be fired or not reappointed without ever having done anything wrong, TC3 could NOT legally discipline or terminate you because you are a woman, or because of your race or age or because you fall into any other any other legally protected class of people. Retaliating or targeting you because of your union support would be just as illegal as retaliating or targeting you because of your sex or race or age. And anyhow, many of us have been very vocal in our support for unionization for months now and nothing has happened to us. TC3 knows better. Also, it’s extremely unusual for any college/university (especially one, like TC3, which already has other unionized employees) to try and derail a union organizing campaign by targeting union supporters. It’s much more typical for colleges/universities to pay lawyers hundreds of thousands of dollars in an attempt to jam up a union organizing campaign with frivolous legal challenges and delays.
I see that the full name of the union is TC3 Adjunct Association, NYSUT, AFT, NEA. What is NYSUT, AFT, NEA?
NYSUT stands for New York State United Teachers and it is the “parent” union for the TC3 Adjunct Association. NYSUT is actually a federation of local affiliate unions throughout the state. Pretty much every public school teacher (and most teacher assistants and teacher aides) are represented by a NYSUT affiliate. There are also NYSUT affiliates which represent fulltime and part-time faculty and professional staff at all four-year SUNY campuses, adjunct faculty at Syracuse University, fulltime faculty at TC3, administrative staff at TC3 and many, many, more. NEA is the National Education Association, another strong union and highly respected professional association for educators. Several years ago, NEA New York merged with NYSUT. AFT stands for the American Federation of Teachers, the “national” union, in union-speak. There are well over 50,000 adjunct faculty represented by AFT-affiliates throughout the country.
What is an OAQ?
It’s an Occasionally Asked Question and though these questions don’t come up that often, in the spirit of transparancy, we decided to provide a link to OAQs on this page. Click here to read the OAQs.
How can I help?
For more information on how you can help our efforts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact any member of the TC3AA Executive Council.