California College of the Arts Adjunct Faculty Ratify First Contract

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After nearly three years of organizing and more than forty bargaining sessions, adjunct faculty represented by SEIU Local 1021 have ratified a first union contract covering nearly 500 adjuncts at California College of the Arts (CCA) in San Francisco and Oakland.

Our members at CCA organized their contract fight under the theme “Job Security for the 78 percent” to call attention to two important facts: that most of the faculty there are untenured and that untenured faculty live a precarious existence of low pay and instability–often not knowing their class assignments from semester to semester.

By forming a union on campus and having the power of Local 1021’s 54,000 members behind them, CCA members were able to make significant improvements to their job security. Under the new contract, CCA adjuncts receive one- and two-year teaching appointments, get course assignments earlier, and benefit from a transparent, objective system for assigning courses, where disputes can be resolved with a grievance process and binding third-party arbitration. The contract also provides “just cause” protections for discipline and termination and, in this age of academic watch lists, protects academic freedom.

The new contract also brings a much-needed raise in pay and benefits: All adjunct faculty will receive raises of 17 percent over three years beginning July 1, 2017. The contract also guarantees health benefits for faculty who teach three courses in an academic year and have been at the school for three years, reimburses committee work and other outside-the-classroom labor, and compensates adjunct faculty for last-minute course cancellations.

The hard-won victory involved allies from the arts community in the Bay Area and across the country, highlighting how administrative bloat, risky endowment management and economic inequality clash with the need to support working artists who nurture the next generation. Hundreds of prominent artists, activists and intellectuals signed the “Justice at CCA” open letter (www.justiceatcca.org) that called on the CCA administration to protect the work and economic security of adjunct faculty at CCA.

“This contract begins to recognize both the economic realities of living in the Bay Area and the skill, education and experience and dedication unranked faculty bring to their work. It is a significant step toward improved job security, and professional respect, for 78 percent of CCA’s faculty members,” said Noga Wizansky, a visual studies and diversity studies instructor and member of the bargaining team. “We took a stand for ourselves and our students, but also for the school and the arts community that we love.”

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