Union Negotiations Continue


There have been many demonstrations in support of the unionization of adjunct faculty, including the one pictured above in 2016. (Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram)

Correction: A previous version of this article stated full-time lecturers worked on semesterly contracts. Lecturers work on contracts ranging from one to five years.

By Aislinn Keely

There have been many demonstrations in support of the unionization of adjunct faculty, including the one pictured above in 2016. (Andrea Garcia/The Fordham Ram)

Since last year’s agreement between the university and the SEIU, Fordham’s contingent faculty union and university administrators have met to negotiate terms of upcoming contracts for adjuncts and lecturers. The third round of negotiations were completed this past week, and a number of meeting dates are set to go through the end of the semester, according to Bob Howe, director of communications for the university.

After this past round, Diane George, an adjunct professor of anthropology and member of Fordham’s contingent faculty union, said the negotiations have been generally positive.

“We’re at the table, we’re working. There is discussion,” she said.

Howe said the negotiations have made progress towards the agreements.

“The parties have made substantial progress toward reaching final agreements covering full-time and part-time faculty represented by the Union, and have additional bargaining sessions scheduled for April, May and June,” said Howe.

Thus far, the administration and the union have reached tentative agreements on three fronts, according to George.

The two groups have agreed on some level of paid leave for full time faculty, according to George. They are still negotiating the number.

Lecturers that teach four courses are considered full time faculty. However, they retain semester to semester contracts with the university.

“If they need to take a leave for whatever reason, professional development or personal reasons, they’re not paid and they don’t know that their jobs are going to be there when they come back,” said George.

She said this is a positive development for the negotiations, and that, though other provisions may be small, they represent something bigger.

“The other provisions may seem minor, but they’re actually kind of indicative of the fact that we’re working towards progress, we are making progress,” she said. “We’re working towards the bigger things.”

These bigger things could include compensation, which has not yet been addressed in the negotiations, according to Ashar Foley, a full time lecturer of communications and media studies.

In addition to paid leave, the negotiations have led to tentative agreements on union involvement in new faculty orientation. George said this will make the union visible to new faculty.

“We think it’s obviously really important that the union has a place at the new faculty orientation so that new faculty members know that they are covered by a union, that they have rights, what the union entails,” she said.

In an effort to include contingent faculty in the broader faculty community, George said they have also reached a tentative agreement on contingent faculty inclusion at department meetings.

“So obviously we’re not going to have the same kind of voice in policy decisions, but it’s a step toward making us part of the broader faculty community,” said George.

The next round will include discussion on the possibility of Faculty Senate representation for contingent faculty, according to George.

In addition to the tentative agreements, there is still a lack of agreement on some key issues, according to George. These include terms of appointment for contingent faculty. Adjuncts are permitted to teach up to two courses per semester and lecturers are capped at four. Adjuncts work on a semester by semester contract, while lecturers work on contracts ranging from one to five years, though the majority work on one year contracts, according to George. She said both types of contracts create a level of insecurity for faculty, according to George.

“As adjuncts, we have semester to semester appointments, which is a really, very unstable way for us to work, it’s unstable for the students,” she said.

Foley explained this in relation to the “Gig Economy” which sees a shift of workers taking on short term ‘gigs’ rather than long term jobs. She said the union is working to create greater security for those engaged in short term contractual work.

“What’s happened in this transition to shorter term economy is lesser job security, and so what a union does is it shores up that gap by making these contractual jobs more secure,” she said.

Foley previously worked as an adjunct at Fordham since 2015, before being tapped for a lecturer position. The transition to full time at one university, rather than splitting her time as an adjunct between two institutions, meant she had an office and did not need to take the train to two separate places.

“All the logistics suddenly became easier,” she said.

Foley said longer term contracts are an important issue for the union, since short-term contracts force adjuncts to constantly search for their next contract.

“To be honest, being an adjunct feels no different in that respect to being a grad student, having no sense of six months down the line where your paychecks are going to come from,” she said.

As of now, the agreement made between the union and the university prior to the union elections provided for two contracts – one addressing lecturers and the other addressing adjuncts. However, George said the union hopes the university will be swayed to formalize one contract, since it feels lecturers and adjuncts are united.

“We are hoping that as the negotiations go on, they’ll see it’s more efficient and effective to have one contract,” she said.

The university currently hopes to have the negotiations completed by June, according to Foley and George. Both said the time frame seemed optimistic, but they were pleased the university wanted to finalize things quickly.

“The university is hoping to come to an agreement by June. We would love to have that happen, but there are basic things we believe we need to achieve,” said George.

“I’m glad that we’re all around the bargaining table, and I like that they want to get it done in two months. If what we want can be addressed within that time frame, that’s great,” said Foley.

Howe did not confirm the hope for a June conclusion, but said the university is confident the groups will reach an agreement.

“The University is confident that through the efforts of the two bargaining teams, the University and the Union will reach agreements on mutually acceptable terms covering these important members of the faculty,” he said.