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mquinn

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November 24, 2014

Vermont Adjunct Faculty Vote to Form a Union

November 24, 2014 | By |

Adjunct professors at Burlington and Champlain colleges have voted overwhelmingly to join adjunct faculty at schools across the country in 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. The vote was a significant step forward for adjuncts in Vermont who are working to improve the working conditions of the increasing numbers of part-time and contingent faculty in higher education in the state and across the country.

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.

Throughout the campaign, adjunct faculty at both schools received an outpouring of support from Vermonters. Senator Bernie Sanders sent a letter of support, as did a number of city council members, state legislators, and the AFT/AAUP-led union representing faculty at the University of Vermont. Hundreds of students and community members signed a petition supporting the organizing efforts, which was delivered to school administrators.

“Ever since we started the process of forming our union, I’ve been feeling more and more empowered. I’m already noticing that we adjuncts are talking to each other a lot more, and we have a much greater sense of collegiality. I no longer feel marginalized on campus,” said Betsy Allen-Pennebaker, who teaches at Champlain College. “I think that this victory today is a wonderful thing for adjuncts, not only in terms of pay and job security, but also in how we feel about ourselves and our profession. Throughout this election, we’ve been talking about all the positive things that will come out of having a union, and that’s what we’ll continue to focus on as we move forward. I really believe that this union is a win-win for everyone. What’s good for adjuncts will also be good for Champlain College as an institution – and improving adjuncts’ working conditions is going to create an even better classroom experience for our students.”

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 this summer. 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 improving working conditions for all part-time faculty in America.

“I am thrilled by the results of the vote and I am looking forward to what is to come for Burlington College and the wider teaching community in Vermont,” said Jonathan Auyer, who teaches at Burlington College. “The campaign aimed at highlighting the need for sustainable pay, access to benefits and stable working conditions for the adjunct faculty, and this vote is one step on the path to making these things happen. I really am excited to work with the administration, my fellow adjuncts and the full-time faculty in the hopes of continuing to better Burlington College by bettering the teaching conditions, which will undoubtedly result in bettering the learning conditions for our students.”

mquinn

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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.

mquinn

By

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.

mquinn

By

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.

mquinn

By

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. 

Kate Bullard

By

November 4, 2014

AAN Member’s Testimony on Adjunct Hours for Department of Education

November 4, 2014 | By |

Adjunct Action Network member Krista Eliot submitted the following testimony to the Department of Education (DOE) on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Read her story and submit your comments on adjunct hours and working conditions to the DOE.

Testimony by Krista Eliot, Adjunct Anthropology Instructor

I am a contingent faulty member–one of the new faculty majority who teach half of the courses offered on college campuses in the United States today. Although I love my job as an adjunct community college instructor in the San Diego area, it is very difficult to make ends meet. Community colleges in San Diego County typically pay their adjunct faculty $3,000-$4,000 per course, which means that I can expect to make approximately $35,000 per year, teaching the equivalent of a full-time course load at three different colleges. My husband is also an adjunct, and neither of us has employment that provides us with health insurance. We pay out-of-pocket for insurance for ourselves and our three-year-old son. 

In addition, we have a combined student loan debt of $140,000 – twice our anticipated annual income for the foreseeable future. We are in the process of applying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, but we do not know if our applications will be approved, due to the difficulty of demonstrating that we are, in fact, employed “full-time” in public service.

Although each of our combined workloads (teaching at three colleges each) equals or exceeds the workload of a full-time faculty member, we aren’t hourly workers, so it is difficult to prove that we actually work far more than the minimum average of 30 hours per week that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program requires. The matter is further complicated by the fact that most of the colleges where we teach pay us per instructional hour. This means that on paper, it appears that we only work an average of about 15 hours per week (the number of hours we spend in the classroom). But this is only a fraction of the actual work that we do – it does not include the many hours that we spend preparing lessons, evaluating student work, reading and answering emails, and meeting with students. 

In light of the issues raised by our story, which illustrates problems faced by thousands of other adjunct faculty with high student loan debt, I ask the Department of Education to do the following:

1. Preserve all existing loan forgiveness programs, and provide a reasonable method for determining full-time employment for adjunct faculty for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

The standard in the proposed Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act, which would extend public service loan forgiveness to all adjunct faculty for whom teaching is their main income, provides the fairest measure for determining eligibility, and this is the standard I recommend that the Department of Education adopt. Most adjunct faculty who make their living by teaching put in far more than the minimum average of 30 hours per week, whether or not these hours are documented on paper.

Another possibility would be to adopt guidelines similar to those issued by the  IRS for employers to determine health insurance eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. These guidelines credit adjunct faculty with 1.25 hours of work outside the classroom for every hour in the classroom. However, it needs to be recognized that the IRS number is a very low estimate. Two or more hours of work outside the classroom for every hour in the classroom is a much more realistic estimate of the real work that we do.

2. Extend PAYE to ALL Borrowers Not Previously Eligible.

All people with financial need and eligible loans should be included in the expansion of loan repayment programs like Pay As You Earn. Responsible borrowers who make payments on their loans for twenty years should have the remainder of their debt forgiven. 

3. Make sure that all borrowers are informed of their student loan repayment options, including any loan forgiveness programs for which they may be eligible.

 It has been my experience that most of my coworkers don’t know about their loan repayment options, or about the possibility that they may be eligible for loan forgiveness. The Department of Education needs to make enrollment accessible and easy.

mquinn

By

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/

jhuskey

By

October 29, 2014

Boston University Adjunct Faculty Announce Union Election Filing

October 29, 2014 | By |

Adjunct faculty at Boston University announced that they have filed for a union election to join SEIU Local 509 as part of the regional and national Adjunct Action campaign to raise standards in higher education.

Boston University adjuncts are continuing to build support while taking an important step towards a vote to join colleagues at Tufts, Northeastern and Lesley universities who have joined SEIU in the last year. The filing comes days after Tufts University part-time faculty overwhelmingly approved a landmark first union contract that covers roughly 200 part-time instructional faculty.

Laurie LaPorte teaches in the Anthropology department at BU. She said, “I’m thrilled that my colleagues and I are a step closer to a union by filing for an election, adding to the momentum that we’re all building in the Boston area. The recent Tufts contract is a great accomplishment. It shows that adjuncts have the power to reverse the trend of ever-increasing contingency in higher education. It’s important to think about the real benefits from the reversal of this trend, particularly in regard to providing quality education and instruction to our students, which is the very purpose of higher education.”

Sixty-six percent of Boston University faculty are not on the tenure track and 41 percent of BU faculty are part-time. The trend at BU follows a national crisis in higher education that has led to broad concern over issues like the marginalization of teaching, academic isolation and job stability.

Dan Hunter teaches playwriting, politics and public policy at BU. He said, “As Boston University has grown in the national education ranking, so has the number of adjuncts and part-time faculty teaching at BU. We are critical to the success that BU has attained, yet adjuncts have no voice in the future of the university, low pay, no job security and no benefits. Adjuncts have the same credentials and are held to the same standards as tenured and full-time faculty.  Through our union, we are asking Boston University to support all its teachers and invest in the classroom experience.”

mquinn

By

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.

jhuskey

By

October 27, 2014

Adjunct Faculty at Washington University in St. Louis File for Union Election

October 27, 2014 | By |

Adjunct and contingent faculty at Washington University announced today that they have filed for a union election as part of a national movement that is raising standards in higher education.

Forty-four percent of faculty in St. Louis area private, non-profit colleges and universities work part time and 73 percent of all faculty are not on the tenure track. While revenues and tuition have increased steadily over the last two decades, spending on instruction has declined – and it’s adjunct faculty and their deeply-in-debt students who are suffering as a result.

Rin Henderson teaches at Washington University. She said, “I’m proud to have received my doctorate from Washington University, and I love teaching the students there. But like many in my position, I often feel insecure about the future and struggle to give my students the full attention they deserve. Filing for a union election is a crucial step toward giving teachers like me a voice in the conversations that determine not only our own security, but the amount of time and consideration we can devote to the students in our care.”

Scott Granneman teaches in the Communications Department at Washington University. He said, “I support forming a union because it promotes fairness for everyone: workers and employers. It gives adjuncts a united voice, and it makes it easier for the administration to work together with adjuncts to create a better educational environment for everyone.”

Washington University contract faculty are following in the footsteps of non-tenure faculty at more than a dozen universities who have joined Adjunct Action in the past year, including Northeastern University and Tufts University in Boston, Howard University and Georgetown University in Washington, DC 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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