Unionization Boosts Pay for Adjunct Faculty

Taken for Granted

Kelly Krause, AAAS

For the 37% of America’s college and university teachers who are adjuncts working part-time and off the tenure track, unionization makes a difference, reports Inside Higher Ed. In the past few years, adjuncts on a small but growing number of campuses have begun to unionize, and unionized adjuncts earn an average of 25% more per course than their nonunionized counterparts, according to research by John Curtis, director of research at the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of University Professors, the article states. Unionization "does empirically make a difference," says Adrianna Kezar, who is a professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and director of the Delphi Project, which studies the academic workforce. "It is one of the few changes that helped to make changes so far," she adds.

In some places improvements can also include better working conditions and benefits, such as pay for office hours, more institutional support, the opportunity to participate in healthcare and retirement plans, and "some kind of job security," the article states.

"Symbolically, it’s important because by the end they were sort of accepting us as true faculty members, not just hired hands." —Mark McGovern

But even if it's better, the pay is still absolutely dismal—an average of $3100 per course as opposed to $2475, according to the article—and only small minorities of adjuncts nationally benefit from these improvements. (For comparison, the average assistant professor earns about $70,000 and teaches between two and five classes per year.) Still, just having a union contract constitutes a "moral victory" that unionized adjuncts appreciate, the article says. "Symbolically, it’s important because by the end they were sort of accepting us as true faculty members, not just hired hands," says Mark McGovern, who is an adjunct at St. Francis College in New York City. McGovern was a member of a union bargaining team that managed, through 3 years of negotiation, to raise the college’s per-course pay by about $800 to $3030.

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