This historic victory for adjunct professors at Mills College is just the first success in the Bay Area of a nationwide campaign through SEIU to empower adjunct professors, who now represent a solid majority of college faculty in the US, to advocate for better conditions for their students and themselves.
Adjuncts represent over 64% of faculty at Mills College. Like their counterparts at so many other colleges across the country, they hold advanced degrees and bring a wealth of academic knowledge, research and experience to their classrooms; also like their counterparts across the country, their superior levels of education and experience do not afford them professional working conditions. Paid by the course, they typically bring home less than $30,000 a year, even shuttling from campus to campus to teach courses at different institutions in an effort to make the rent. They generally have no benefits and have no guarantee or even reasonable expectation of continued employment from semester to semester. Courses can be assigned or dropped at the last minute, leaving them scrambling to prepare a new course or find alternative employment to compensate for the lost income.
Their conditions have been documented at length recently in the national news media by The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, Slate.com, and Al Jazeera America, among others. While adjuncts are dedicated to their students and their mission of providing high-quality education, they feel that having more stability, job security and a living wage would allow them to provide better support and advocacy for their students.
“Forming a union will give adjuncts at Mills the ability to advocate for students, education and ourselves. We will all benefit from a supported and empowered faculty at all levels, and Mills will be able to maintain its standards of academic excellence as well as live up to its social justice mission,” explains David Buuck, adjunct professor of English at Mills.
Adjuncts at Mills filed a petition to join SEIU Local 1021 on March 24, and voted by secret mail ballot between April 28 and May 12. The votes were counted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) May 14. Eligible adjunct faculty voted by a 78% margin to support unionizing with SEIU in hopes of making substantial improvements at Mills College. They are just the latest group of adjuncts to join SEIU through the nationwide Adjunct Action campaign. In late April, adjunct faculty at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and Howard University voted to join SEIU. Here in the Bay, adjuncts at San Francisco Art Institute are currently voting in their union election to join SEIU 1021; their vote count will take place on May 30. “This is an exciting moment,” says Dale Carrico, an adjunct writing teacher at SFAI. “The problems that beset us are clear. The promises of this moment are exhilarating.”
For more background and information on the Adjunct Action campaign in the Bay Area, visit www.adjunctactionbayarea.org.