What’s the latest on the Union drive?
As many of you probably remember, back in June of 2015 the TC3 Adjunct Association (TC3AA), the Tompkins-Cortland Community College Faculty Association (the union which represents fulltime faculty), and the College participated in a hearing at the Public Employment Relations Board (or “PERB,” the State entity that oversees unions and employers in the public sector). The TC3AA and the Faculty Association argued that the TC3AA (the union for adjuncts and tutors at the College) should be separate from the existing faculty union. The College argued that the adjunct union and the fulltime union should be merged.
In February 2017 we received word that Judge Carlson of the Public Employment Relations Board has ruled in our favor that the TC3 Adjunct Association should be a stand alone union! We submitted the requisite paperwork to show that the TC3AA still had the required majority support of the adjuncts and tutors at the College and PERB certified the TC3AA as the official union for the College’s adjuncts.
Now we turn our energies to the election of the Executive Council and ratification of the Constitution and bylaws, so we can build a strong union and negotiate a fair contract with the College’s administration for TC3 adjuncts.
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 didn’t have a union back when the organizing drive began in 2014. We teach the bulk of the College’s courses, yet we had no voice about our jobs. Now, with the TC3AA as the official union of the College’s adjuncts, we DO have that voice.
What is the Union’s “platform”?
It’s still a work in progress — and look for a bargaining survey in the near future to fine tune the platform (and, even more importantly, help the future Negotiating Committee prepare bargaining proposals). But , so far the issues that (many/most) 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 (due process for adjuncts as well as 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. 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 local affiliates like TC3AA have dues somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-1.5% of gross. And, yes, once dues start being collected, adjuncts are only expected to pay dues when they are working at TC3 and only on their TC3 adjunct earnings.
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?
Like most managers, they liked the status quo, the one where they got 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 did not want adjuncts to have a union. The College unquestionably had the legal right to send the boilerplate anti-union letters it did in 2014 and to force us to protracted legal fight from 2015-2017. Many adjuncts and community members believed the College didn’t the moral right to do all that, to spend taxpayer money to fund a high-priced attorney and the countless personnel hours it took to fight our efforts to form a union for ourselves. But, we hope to put that behind us now and focus on building a good labor-management relationship with the College’s administration and negotiating a fair contract.
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.
How can I help?
You should definitely JOIN the TC3AA if you already haven’t. And there will be plenty of ways to get involved in the coming weeks and months. For more information on how you can help our efforts, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.