9:40 AM Eastern - Friday, February 17, 2012

American University Adjunct Faculty Vote to Join SEIU Local 500 #default

Adjuncts_AmericanUniversity copy2.jpgIn response to growing inequality on campus including near-poverty wages with no benefits, adjunct faculty at American University voted to join SEIU Local 500. More than 1,000 adjuncts will now have a collective voice with the union.

"This is a major step in reforming higher education, not just at American University but across the country," said Mark Plane, an adjunct in the anthropology department at American university.

Increasingly, adjuncts see forming a union as the best way to achieve a path to the middle class in the face of low compensation and declining working conditions.

  • Adjunct faculty make up more than half of all college teachers nationally.
  • Most work part time for very low wages with no benefits, job security, administrative support or academic rights.
  • At American University, an adjunct with a Ph.D. teaching three classes a semester could make as little as $18,000 a year.

These conditions make it much more difficult for adjuncts to provide the academic experience students need. They are often hired to teach at the last minute so it is harder to prepare for their courses. They do not have office space and many work additional jobs to make ends meet so there's less time to be available to students after class.

"The reality is that, except for a lucky few, anyone trying to forge a career in academia will serve an indefinite time as an adjunct," said Plane. "The university too often treats this as business as usual, but for my fellow adjuncts, it can be a real struggle to get by."

American University is the third university in the Washington, DC metro area to vote to form an adjunct faculty union. SEIU Local 500 also represents adjunct faculty at George Washington University and Montgomery College.

SEIU represents over 10,000 adjunct professors, the largest union of adjuncts in the country. Find out more about the Coalition of Academic Labor at http://www.seiu.org/coal

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