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Temple Adjunct Professors Win Union Representation

January 21, 2016

by Willig, Williams and Davidson

Adjunct faculty members at Temple University are starting a new year with a new sense of job security and respect. On Nov. 25, 2015, Temple’s adjunct faculty voted in favor of union representation by a more than two to one majority. The 1,400 adjunct faculty joined the American Federation of Teachers affiliate, Temple Association of University Professionals, which already represented 1,400 full-time faculty members at the school.

The recent TAUP-AFT victory at Temple is part of a wave of adjunct faculty organizing efforts across the country. Nationwide, adjunct faculty comprise more than half of all college instructors, yet their concerns often are unheard or unaddressed by school administrations. The AFT, the nation’s largest higher education union with more than 80,000 adjuncts and other contingent faculty, has been working to change that dynamic by organizing adjunct faculty at a number of colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area. And the Service Employees International Union also has focused on citywide campaigns to organize adjunct faculty at schools in cities such as Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, DC.

Regardless of location, the issues that adjuncts seek to address through union representation are the same – job security, low pay, poor working conditions, and no benefits. Adjunct faculty are paid for each course that they teach (for the 2013-14 school year, the national median was a mere $2,700 per course). Many adjuncts must teach multiple courses at several different schools each semester just to make ends meet. Adjuncts have no job security from semester to semester, and even face the possibility of classes being canceled after the start of a semester. In addition to the low pay and insecurity, adjunct faculty often work without access to basic resources and support, such as dedicated office space or a computer, and as part-time employees they do not qualify for benefits.   

Through unionization, however, adjunct faculty across the country are securing higher wages, more stability, and, ultimately, a meaningful voice on the job. The election at Temple University was the largest representation election for adjuncts conducted in the United States since 2013. It followed years of organizing efforts in the face of an anti-union school administration that lodged challenge after challenge to their campaign. Because they continued to press forward notwithstanding opposition, Temple’s adjunct faculty now are in position to improve their working conditions while continuing to provide a quality education for their students. Good for them!

The labor lawyers at Willig, Williams & Davidson counsel union clients on all aspects of union organizing campaigns and first-contract negotiations. If you need help forming a union or bargaining a union contract, please contact us at (215) 656-3600.

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