WRITTEN BY JOSEPH MATOS
The adjunct professors at St Francis College — who say they make up the majority of the teaching staff — have formed a union to campaign for better pay and conditions.
The St Francis College Adjunct Faculty Union (SFCAFU) claims that adjunct professors at SFC are paid $2,250-$2,400 for a three credit course.
The union argues that adjuncts at other institutions in the New York area are paid significantly higher.
Long Island University adjunct faculty are paid between $3,435 and $5,193 for a 3-credit course, the union says.
Cooper Union adjunct faculty are paid between $3,600 and $5,840 and Marymount Manhattan College adjunct faculty are paid between $3,017 and $3,117, the union says.
The SFC union wants a per course salary for adjunct lecturers of $3,437 and $3,953 per course for “senior” adjuncts.
The union said if SFC doesn’t pay adjuncts more and give them better conditions including a professional development fund, a pay and promotion system more in line with full time faculty, access to affordable health insurance and better job security, they could take strike action.
Adjuncts are not full time professors — they teach part time and are paid less than full-time professors. Some have outside jobs but others rely mostly on their pay as adjunct professors to live.
The union says on its website if the adjunct faculty “continue to be handed insulting wages” and they do not reach an agreement that is satisfactory — then they will have to take a vote on whether to go on strike.
If the adjuncts went on strike, adjunct faculty members would picket on Remsen Street during the times that they’re scheduled to teach.
SFC spokesman Richard Relkin said: “Most of the outstanding issues have been dealt with. We are in active negotiations and are optimistic that a deal can be struck that is fair to all involved.”
SFC Provost Tim Houlihan then said: “The college has negotiated with the union in good faith, and will continue to do so.
“This will be the first union agreement in the college’s history, and there are many details to work out, but we’re proud of the extent of the agreement we’ve been able to reach thus far.
“The administration looks forward to achieving a sustainable agreement that will benefit the students, the adjunct faculty and the college as a whole.”
SFCAFU has over a hundred signatures from SFC adjuncts and full time faculty members on a petition to President Brendan Dugan and SFC’s Board of Trustees calling for a fair wage for adjunct faculty.
The union website claims that adjunct professors teach the bulk of the courses at SFC.
Adjunct professor Michael Fontana has been teaching music at SFC for 10 years and and attended negotiations on January 16, 2013. Fontana claimed SFC adjuncts are the lowest paid in New York city and that the adjuncts are simply looking for “parity”.
Fontana said the union has been in negotiations for more than two years and claimed that SFC “doesn’t consider them faculty and that it is tremendously insulting.”
He claimed SFC has implied that adjunct faculty can easily be replaced. Fontana explained that job security is a major issue for adjuncts and that even though he has been at SFC for 10 years there is still no guarantee that he has a job the next semester.
Fontana claimed further that SFC has been justifying not raising adjunct wages by saying that the college’s mission is to keep tuition down and by paying them more they will have to raise tuition.
Fontana said that this isn’t a viable argument. The union says the top ten administration officials at SFC make more than $2 million collectively — that’s an average of $200,000 each.
Fontana said: “No one wants to go on a strike but it was mentioned at the meeting … We’re just frustrated by the lack of action … The offers are insulting.”
According to Fontana, the pay rise on offer from SFC is equivalent to what adjuncts would have received if they hadn’t unionized and just waited for the normal time frame rise.
Asked if the the full-time faculty supported the adjuncts in the negotiations, Fontana said: “Some of the full-time faculty is supportive, others are not supportive.”
The union website said negotiations have made much progress on non-economic items.
But adjuncts and SFC are still far apart on wages.
The union website claims SFC negotiators spoke about the large “labor pool” of adjunct faculty in the NYC area and argued that with such a large and willing workforce, SFC can attract excellent adjunct faculty without significantly raising wages.
The union said the SFC negotiating team is bolstered by the powerful law firm Proskauer Rose LLP which is known for it’s celebrity clients and representation of major sport leagues in the United States of America as well as its dealings with labor unions.
Full-time Prof. Paddy Quick, Chair of the Economics, History, Political Science and Social Studies Department, said she supports the adjunct union and all of its causes.
Asked about the reluctance of some full-timers to support the adjuncts, she said: “The faculty is concerned to express opinions that go against the administration … I am not.”
Quick explained that the administration told her to inform the adjunct faculty that the college was opposed to a union.
“I really genuinely believe that the college as a whole would be better off if there were regular procedures governing the term and conditions of adjunct faculty,” said Quick.
Quick added: “The colleges proposal is I believe not only unfair to our adjunct faculty members, but one that bodes ill for our own future salaries and significantly reduces the authority of department chairs to determine the appropriate salaries for their adjuncts.”
Quick argued that she found it “horrendously difficult” to find good adjunct professors.
Quick said the college finances are in “extremely good shape” and that the school has an excellent bond rating and can afford to pay adjuncts more.
“We have an obligation today to assert once more that the success of St. Francis College is attributable, in large part, to the work of its adjunct faculty, and that they deserve to be compensated appropriately for their contribution”.