Adjunct faculty at the New School in New York City enter their second week of a strike. The university advertises itself as socially conscious but has not raised adjunct pay since 2018, resulting in an effective 18% pay cut adjusted for inflation.
Los Angeles Times Editorial Board
Los Angeles Times
As higher education hires more adjuncts, it also relies on them more. Colleges and universities can’t fulfill their teaching mission without them — which gives part-timers more power, if they choose to use it.
The plight of academic adjuncts, those Ph.D's working full-time at low wages, no benefits and little job security, viewed not just as prototypical exploited gig workers and units of flexibility but also as an advanced contingent of union activists.
Our colleagues who support the contract must understand that this is not enough, just as our colleagues who are against the contract must understand that the fight doesn’t stop here; both groups must recognize that we need each other to move forward.
A new report says faculty and graduate students at 70 colleges have voted to unionize in the past three years. There are close to 1 million adjuncts working at colleges and universities. One example of organizing is the Faculty Forward campaign by the Service Employees International Union. They have won 38 of 41 representation elections since 2013.
Like the other low-wage workers that protested yesterday, the ultimate goal of the burgeoning adjunct faculty movement is fair pay and decent working conditions. What yesterday’s demonstrations showed was that this could be a substantial and sustainable struggle that is primed to create waves throughout the labor market. And unifying all low-wage workers—from fast food to faculty—will be an important part of that.
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Adjuncts make up about 70% of the American professoriate. Adjuncts usually make $20,000–$25,000 a year, often by teaching courses at various institutions each semester. They have no job security, and frequently receive no health or retirement benefits. But they have begun fighting to improve their lot. SEIU is organizing in several states.
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