During the SGA meeting on Oct. 5, Associate Professor Michael Lindberg countered a student who spoke at the Sept. 28 meeting on behalf of the unionizing of contingent faculty.
EC senior Sam Davis went to the Sept. 28 SGA meeting to present on the Service Employees International Union Local 73, also known as Faculty Forward.
During his presentation, Davis discussed the reasons why the union has started the process of forming at EC.
“The main things they are fighting for are higher income, benefits and job security since they are hired per semester and they often have few office hours, if any. Some contingent faculty do not get office hours or an office space on campus,” he said.
Later in his presentation, he discussed why he felt SGA was so crucial to the success of the union.
“I just wanted to bring this to the attention of SGA because you guys do a really good job and have an important role in representing on campus,” Davis said, later adding, “If SGA would like to draft a statement on this, I would love to help and I can get you guys in contact with other union members, organizers and faculty members. Being students, not just SGA members, has a lot of power as well.”
At the following SGAmeeting on Oct. 5, SGA discussed how they might move forward and learned more about the unionization from Lindberg.
“From the perspective of full time faculty, the administration has informed us of the attempt by a union to establish a union for adjuncts,” said Lindberg. “The official stand of the institution is neutral. In fact, it is actually illegal for an institution to actively work against a union. Individual faculty have been told that whatever personal feelings we have about a union, we have the right to personally express.”
During the previous meeting, Davis discussed how the unionizers felt the administration was working against them and providing misinformation to the faculty to prevent the union from happening.
According to Matilda Stubbs, an adjunct faculty member at EC and a union organizer who has been a part of the formation of unions on other campuses across the Chicago area, the organizers experienced a feeling of obstruction from a meeting and an email recapping the meeting from Dean of Faculty April Edwards.
In a copy of the email providedto The Leader by Stubbs, Edwards, explaining her own experience with a faculty union, wrote “I had many of the same concerns voiced by those in attendance at the town hall meeting, and the union did not solve any of these problems for me.”
“I was frustrated by having to pay union dues when I didn’t even know who my union representative was. I had no input into the issues being negotiated by the union,” she continued. “The contract prevented me from teaching the classes I was best qualified to teach, and also barred me from speaking directly with my department chair on many issues. Like all of you, I wanted to work with my colleagues to provide an outstanding education to my students,” she added.
When asked if there was any other evidence of possible push back from the administration, Stubbs said this was all she was aware of.
Edwards and President of EC Troy VanAken have both said that the administration will remain neutral and will work with the adjunct faculty whether they decide to unionize or not.
Lindberg also corrected some statements that were made during the presentation last week.
“I did just want to clarify a couple of things,” he said. “First of all, his use of the word contingent faculty is not incorrect, but on this campus, the only contingent faculty we currently have are adjuncts. I think he also said this would also apply to anyone who isn’t tenured, that’s not correct. The only faculty who are currently involved in this are adjunct faculty.”
“Obviously, I’m a full time faculty member, but I started out as an adjunct here at Elmhurst. Adjunct faculty are part-time faculty. They don’t have permanent contracts with the institution. Their contracts are semester by semester. They are not even year long contracts.”
However, Davis did not discuss the amount of faculty at ECthat were adjunct but that the most common type of contingent faculty were adjuncts.
During the Sept. 28 meeting, Davis was asked to specify the difference between adjunct and contingent faculty, to which he clarified they were technically the same thing.
“There are a couple different types of contingent faculty,” Davis said, “Adjunct is the most common [type]. Anyone who is not tenured or on the tenure track is considered non tenured [or] a contingent faculty member if they are an educator.”
Lindberg also clarified the pay scale of an adjunct that Davis had claimed was around $4,000.
“The statement in notes that Sam gave you last meeting indicated that the most the adjunct can make is $4,000 a term in a semester. That’s actually not true, it depends on how many credits they are teaching. An adjunct is restricted to teaching only 4 credits per calendar year. So in some cases if an adjunct member is teaching two full credit courses plus a lab in the science, they could actually make an excess of $7,000 in a semester.”
SGA Representative Laura Rusk questioned the response of the institution if adjuncts unionized.
“The institution has a lawyer here, but whether they are consulting that lawyer or other lawyers about the union issue, it’s to understand how we would interact with that union if it comes to pass, since we [have] never done it before”, answered Lindberg.
Edwards confirmed that there are lawyers working with the administration but that they are here, at this stage of the movement, to provide guidance in the language used to discuss the union. She also confirmed that in later stages the lawyers will help in negotiations, if the adjunct faculty decides to unionize.
In the end, SGA felt they needed more information before making any decisions regarding the matter.
SGA representative Noah Pearson said, “I would love to support it, but I was a little confused on what Sam wanted from us.”
SGA Representative Joshua Bucens agreed on waiting for more information, saying, “I think we should try to talk to someone from the administration as well as an adjunct who is running this process of unionization to get a better idea of what’s going on.”