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November 18, 2014

ACA Webinar and Q&A

November 18, 2014 | By |

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) began on November 15th. On Monday, November 24th we’ll post a video covering the most important parts of how to get covered. We’ll also be hosting a Q&A on our forum, with SEIU’s ACA expert Sarah Nolan answering questions on December 5th from 2 to 3pm EST. Post your questions now in the forum and join us on 12/5 for an informative discussion

If you’re ready to enroll, visit healthcare.gov to enroll by December 15 for healthcare starting on January 1, 2015.

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November 12, 2014

Webinar on Student Loan Forgiveness on 11/20

November 12, 2014 | By |

SEIU is co-sponsoring a webinar on student loan forgiveness on Thursday, November 20th from 12-1PM EST.  Representatives from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will lead the presentation on student loan forgiveness, what goes into Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, IBR/PAYE Forgiveness plans, and some state initiatives that forgive student debt – with an emphasis on how to get coworkers/bosses engaged in the discussion.

The presentation will  last about 30 minutes and will include a segment on income-driven replacement plans. It will be followed with a Q&A, and the link to access the webinar will be mailed out to those who RSVP. 

Click here to RSVP. Please share the invite on your social networks using the hashtag #debtfreefuture.

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November 7, 2014

Vermont Adjunct News & Updates

November 7, 2014 | By |

Check out the new website of our metro organizing committee!

Vermont Edition Piece on Union Efforts

Genevieve Jacobs, an adjunct faculty member at Champlain College and  Sean Witters, a lecturer in the English Department at the University of Vermont, spoke to VPR about their experiences as adjuncts and the unionization process. Click here to listen to the full interview. 

Update: Victory at St. Michael’s

Adjunct professors at St. Michael’s College in Vermont today voted strongly in favor of forming a union with SEIU/Adjunct Action. By a margin of 64% in favor (46 yes to 26 no), the adjuncts at St. Michael’s join their colleagues at Champlain College and Burlington College, who voted overwhelmingly to form adjunct unions at their respective colleges last week. Read more here.

Update: Victory at Champlain and Burlington

Adjunct faculty at Burlington and Champlain colleges have voted overwhelmingly in favor of forming a union with SEIU/Adjunct Action, with 80% at Champlain College (118 to 30) and 85% at Burlington College (23 to 4) adjunct faculty voting yes to a union. Read more here.

Support from Senator Bernie Sanders

Our union organizing efforts have received the strong support of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders! In letters to adjunct faculty, he wrote, “It is not my intention to tell you how to vote in that election. That is your decision. What I will tell you, however, is that I have had the opportunity of working with thousands of Vermont  workers who are members of unions – including many who work in the field of education.  These include the full-time and adjunct faculty at UVM and the Vermont State Colleges, public school teachers – among others. These workers formed their unions to improve the conditions of their employment. What forming a union means is that you and your co-workers will have the opportunity to sit down as legal equals with management to negotiate a legally binding contract covering all aspects of your wages, benefits, and working conditions.”

Read the full letters of support here and here.

Support from United Academics

Our union organizing efforts have received the support and endorsement from the Executive Council of United Academics, the union that represents the faculty of the University of Vermont. Here’s their statement:The Executive Council of United Academics stands in solidarity with the part-time faculty of St. Michael’s College, Champlain College and Burlington College and Adjunct Action as they conduct their Union elections. We support the right of all workers, including faculty, to unionize with a union of their choice, and to bargain collectively. We call upon the Administrations of these three institutions not to interfere in any way with the election process. We call upon students and staff at these institutions to support their faculties in their drive for Union representation. We encourage faculty at these institutions to vote Union YES! Because Faculty Working Conditions are Student Learning Conditions.”

The High Cost of Adjunct Living: Vermont

The white paper “The High Cost of Adjunct Living: Vermont” has been released. In it, there’s figures detailing how being a university professor, once the quintessential middle-class job, has become a low-wage one. Read the full report here. 

Adjunct Symposium

We held our adjunct faculty symposium over the weekend, and d the excitement was palpable as we heard from colleagues here in VT and across the country about how adjuncts are fighting and winning big improvements in job security, working conditions, and student learning conditions. Here’s a picture from the event. We’re ready to Vote Yes! as ballots are mailed.

VoteYesSmall

Community Petition Delivered

Three delegations of students, faculty, alumni, and community members marched on the Presidents of St. Mike’s and Burlington Colleges and the Provost of Champlain College to present the community neutrality petition, which has received almost 650 signatures. Pictured below is the St. Michael’s delegation.

St Mikes Delegation small

Support from the City Council

City Council members Selene Colburn, Max Tracy, Vince Brennan, and Rachel Siegel wrote letters expressing their support for adjunct organizing in Vermont that were delivered to the respective college administration. In them, the city council members wrote, “We are writing to express our support for a fair and neutral process that allows … adjunct faculty members to make their decision about representation in a free and fair election that is not marred by intimidation, coercion or unnecessary legal hearings or delays.” Read the full versions here: St. Michael’s Letter;   Champlain College Letter;   Burlington College Letter

Support from VT Legislators

32 Vermont State Representatives and Senators have signed letters supporting the adjunct organizing effort in Vermont. The letters, sent to the administrators at Champlain, Burlington, and St. Michael’s colleges, state: “We support adjuncts moving towards a free and fair election, free from intimidation, coercion, and unnecessary legal hearings or delays. We believe there is no reason for the institution to use student tuition dollars or other college resources to fight the adjuncts right to organize.” Read the full letters below.

Champlain College Letter of Support

Burlington College Letter of Support

St. Michael’s Letter of Support

Support from the American Federation of Teachers

American of Federation of Teachers Vermont’s President Benjamin Johnson has sent letters in support of the ongoing Adjunct Action Vermont adjunct faculty organizing efforts to the administrations of Champlain, Burlington and St. Michael’s colleges. In the letters he says adjuncts organizing at all three schools “have a right to make this important and personal decision without fear of intimidation or coercion. AFT is deeply committed to supporting workers’ rights and standing up for fair labor standards for all working people.”  Read the full letters here: AFT Support Letter.

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November 7, 2014

Seven Days Article on VT Adjuncts

November 7, 2014 | By |

“Food stamps. Medicaid. Moonlighting. Despite their advanced degrees, some adjunct professors at local colleges report that these are some of the ways they make ends meet In response, a labor organizing effort is under way among part-time faculty at three private colleges.”

Check out the full article by Alicia Freese in Seven Days here. 

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October 30, 2014

New Regs on For-Profit Just A Start in Reforms needed to Protect Students

October 30, 2014 | By |

The Department of Education has released new regulations on the for-profit higher education industry (read the Associate Press story here). Below is SEIU’s statement on the new regulations.

The Department of Education’s (DOE) new regulations on the for-profit higher education industry are a modest step forward in efforts to hold these schools accountable for dismal student outcomes but much more still needs to be done.

“I’m glad the Department of Education is taking steps to ensure that these schools begin to live up to their commitment to their students,” said Tyrone Jones, a veteran and a former Corinthian College student. “We are pushing for even stronger student protections, and we’re going to keep fighting to make sure both Congress and DOE do their part to keep this industry honest.”


The Department maintained a crucial accountability metric which ensures that career education programs are held accountable for the debt of their graduates as it relates to their income. However, it is worrisome that the regulations do not hold predatory programs accountable for students who have defaulted on their loans, which amounted to over a quarter million students between 2009 and 2011.

We know, based on Department of Education data, students attending for-profit career education programs are twice as likely to borrow and three times as likely to default. Without the default rate measure, programs can still saddle students with crippling debt and continue to receive taxpayer funded financial aid as long the vast majority of students drop-out.

It’s disappointing that even in the face of these modest regulatory improvements, the lobbying group for the for-profit higher education industry is signaling that they will sue the Department for this effort to ensure that they prepare their graduates for the workforce.

While these regulations are not sufficient, they are a step in the right direction and send a clear signal to the for-profit industry that students’ interests must be a priority. In order to protect students and taxpayers’ investment, the Department of Education and members of Congress must use all available means to hold for-profit colleges accountable.

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Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is home to over 90,000 college and university faculty and employees who have won improvements in pay, job security, evaluation processes, and access to retirement benefits.

http://forprofitu.org/

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October 29, 2014

Boston Globe Article on Tufts Contract

October 29, 2014 | By |

Check out a new article in the Boston Globe

Tufts part-time professors to get better pay, job security

“Most part-time professors at Tufts University will get a 22 percent pay raise over the next three years and improved job security under a new contract that could influence negotiations at other schools where adjunct faculty have recently organized or are considering doing so.

The Tufts deal, a three-year agreement ratified Friday, will also keep an existing arrangement that makes professors who teach at least three courses over the course of an academic year eligible for health, retirement, tuition reimbursement, and other employee benefits, according to union officials.”

Read the full article here.

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October 3, 2014

VT Adjuncts File for Union Election

October 3, 2014 | By |

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.

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September 12, 2014

GAO Report on Student Debt and Older Americans

September 12, 2014 | By |

A new study by the Government Accountability Office found that a small but increasing number of older Americans are burdened by a growing student debt load.  According to the report, “Student debt among older American households has grown in recent years. The percentage of households headed by those aged 65 to 74 having student debt grew from about 1 percent in 2004 to about 4 percent in 2010.”

“While those 65 and older account for a small fraction of  the total amount of outstanding federal student debt, the outstanding federal student debt for this age group grew from about $2.8 billion in 2005 to about $18.2 billion in 2013,” the report noted. Overall, the total outstanding student debt is $1.1 trillion.

The report was released a Senate Aging Committee hearing this week. “Some may think of student loan debt as just a young person’s problem,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., chairman of the committee. “Well, as it turns out, that’s increasingly not the case.”

Read more about the hearing and the report here.

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August 4, 2014

Tomorrow: Join A Call With Senator Dick Durbin on PSLF, Adjuncts

August 4, 2014 | By |

Join us for a call with Senator Dick Durbin and adjunct activists Tuesday, August 5th at 5:20 EDT. Senator Durbin will provide an update of the bill he introduced last week that expands the Public Service Loan forgiveness program, and adjunct activists will share their debt stories. We’ll also get an update about the exciting new programming coming to the Adjunct Action this summer and fall. Click here to RSVP: http://action.seiu.org/page/s/call-with-durbin-adjuncts

Durbin Join Call

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July 31, 2014

Big News: Sen. Dick Durbin Introduces Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act

July 31, 2014 | By |

With advanced degrees, adjunct faculty are well-prepared to teach. But with such degrees often comes significant debt, and few options for keeping the student debt burden manageable. A new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate reflects the momentum adjunct faculty have created in the past year toward making big changes in their workplaces while helping shape the future of higher education.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation that will help adjunct faculty access the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). The Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act would make a tremendous impact on the lives of thousands of adjunct and contingent faculty, who now make up a majority of America’s college instructors and more than half of whom work part-time.

“As their budgets have tightened, colleges and universities have become increasingly reliant upon part-time adjunct faculty who face low pay, few if any benefits, and minimal job security,” Durbin said in a statement. “The vast majority of these educators hold advanced degrees, and as a result, bear the heavy burden of student loan debt. It is only right that we expand their access to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, a benefit already available to many of their full-time colleagues.”

“As a part-time, temporary worker with a crushing amount of school debt, I know how important student debt reform is for ensuring education retains the promise of social mobility for both me and my fellow adjuncts and the students we teach,” said Marga Ryersbach, an adjunct who teaches in New York. “I’m pleased that Senator Durbin is working to make sure we have access to a program that helps correct the imbalances wrought by huge amounts of education debt.”

Student debt has become a national issue and it’s one that is critically important for part-time and non-tenure track faculty, as the average debt burden for borrowers with advanced degrees is now $61,000. Furthermore, the average pay per course reported by adjunct faculty is approximately $3,000, which means that an adjunct who teaches eight courses per year will make just $24,000 annually.  Adjunct faculty often have trouble making ends meet, let alone, paying down their student debt.

Congress created the PSLF program in 2007 to offer student loan forgiveness to people with careers in the public or nonprofit sectors. But as the program is currently structured, many adjunct faculty are not eligible to participate. The current law states that in order to be eligible for PSLF a person must work an average of 30 hours a week over the course of a year. Since adjunct faculty do not have control over their course load (most times school administrators decide how many classes an instructor can teach), whether they meet the 30 hour requirement is out of their hands. As a result, just one semester or year with a low course load can prevent adjunct faculty from obtaining PSLF credit for their public service for that year.

The Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act will allow adjunct faculty to access PSLF even if they have a low course load that does not meet the 30 hour eligibility requirement. Those who teach at least one course in a given year will qualify for PSLF. However, contingent  faculty who have a separate, full-time, private sector job will not have access to this program. This means that the program will only be open to those adjunct faculty who really need the benefits of PSLF—those who make a living from teaching.

“While we are joining together for a voice at Hamline, we are also focused on the big challenges facing higher education,” Hamline University adjunct faculty member David Weiss said. “It’s great to know that adjunct and contingent faculty have allies in Congress like Senator Durbin who are working to ensure that adjunct faculty are included in the PSLF program. While thousands of contingent faculty are joining together, this bill is a huge opportunity to take our movement to the next level and change the lives of adjunct faculty members by improving the PSLF.”

Stay tuned for more on the Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act and how you can get involved in making it a reality.

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