Burlington, VT – Adjunct and contingent faculty at three Vermont colleges announced they that they have filed for union elections as part of a statewide campaign and a national movement that is raising standards in higher education. Part-time instructors at Champlain, St Michael’s and Burlington Colleges believe a union will give them a stronger voice for both faculty and the students they teach.
Over 40 percent of faculty at Vermont’s private, non-profit colleges and universities work part time and 72 percent of all faculty are not on the tenure track. Adjunct faculty, now the majority of teaching faculty across the country, typically have no job security, no benefits and low pay that forces adjuncts to string together jobs at multiple colleges and universities to make ends meet. At the same time, revenues and tuition have increased steadily over the last two decades while spending on instruction has declined – and it’s adjuncts and their deeply-in-debt students who are suffering as a result.
Jeanne Lieberman teaches at Champlain College. “We love to teach, but we’re isolated and invisible in many ways on campus,” she said. “Forming a union gives us a voice in the decision-making process that affects our jobs, and our students. We are heartened to know that across Vermont, adjunct faculty are on our way to forming a union to strengthen the educational mission of our colleges and make them even better for our students.”
“It’s really exciting to see adjuncts organizing and coming together in Burlington as part of a growing labor movement in Vermont that’s on the upsurge, and we and many people across the state support them,” said James Haslam, the executive director of The Vermont Workers’ Center.
“Today is just the beginning and we are ready to build the support necessary to form our union and make our schools a better place for all faculty and students,” said Rebecca Weisman, adjunct faculty at Burlington College. “Over the next few weeks, we will to reach out to faculty here at Burlington, at Champlain, and other schools and who are ready to raise standards in higher education.”
“A union victory isn’t about a quick fix for salaries,” said Naomi Winterfalcon from Champlain College. “There are many issues that are critical for the future of higher education in Vermont and across the nation. A union is way for us to begin making changes with the support of the entire community.”
Vermont adjunct faculty are following in the footsteps of adjuncts at more than a dozen universities who have joined Adjunct Action in the past year, including The College of St. Rose in Albany, New York where adjuncts voted to join SEIU Local 200United last week. They join faculty at the Howard University and Georgetown University in Washington, DC, Antioch University in Seattle and Northeastern University in Boston who have all voted for unionization in order to strengthen their voices and improve working conditions for all part-time faculty in America.