OPTFA and NFM support proposed state legislation to give adjunct faculty collective bargaining rights

Media Release

For Immediate Release

National and State Part-time Faculty Leaders Applaud
Introduction of New Legislation Facilitating Collective Bargaining for College Instructors in Ohio

Unionization will help students by improving the working conditions of their instructors, say faculty leaders

Contact:  David Wilder, Co-chair, OPTFA Organizing Committee (216-751-1278) or Maria Maisto, President, New Faculty Majority (216-262-4375)

Legislation introduced in the Ohio state legislature March 8, which would institute collective bargaining rights for adjunct faculty and graduate students, has the strong support  of New Faculty Majority (NFM), a national, nonprofit advocacy group for adjunct faculty, as well as the newly forming Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association (OPTFA).

Rep. Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) and Senator Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) introduced identical legislation, House Bill 96 and Senate Bill 65, in an effort to give so-called “part-time” or “adjunct” faculty and graduate student employees the same right to negotiate their working conditions as full-time professors.

Current Ohio law does not recognize part-time faculty and graduate students as public employees for the purpose of collective bargaining.  This means that part-time faculty who wish to negotiate the conditions of their own employment may not petition the labor board to conduct an election to decide the question of union representation.  They also may not seek relief from the labor board if the public employer engages in unlawful practices.  That would change if the legislation introduced by Strahorn and Turner is approved.

Turner said she sees adjunct faculty as “a pivotal part of the fabric of higher education” who “need a seat at the table to ensure that they’re being treated fairly.”

Strahorn agreed, particularly since colleges and universities around the state rely on part-time faculty to teach as much as 80 percent of courses offered.

“Adjuncts and graduate assistants deserve to have the same rights as full time professors, especially with colleges and universities relying more heavily on these part time employees,” he said. “It is not fair or right to have these disparities in working conditions and benefits for people who do the same kind of work.”

The legislation Strahorn and Turner introduced simply says that part-time faculty should no longer be excluded from collective bargaining if they choose to organize for that purpose.

The legislation was lauded by Maria Maisto, a part-time faculty member at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, who co-founded and now leads New Faculty Majority and its affiliated Foundation, national nonprofit associations that seek to improve the quality of higher education by improving the working conditions of the majority of its faculty.

“Research demonstrates that students are more successful when they have faculty who are respected and whose working conditions are professional,” Maisto said. “Under the current model in Ohio, so-called ‘part-time’ faculty work has been transformed into full-time work for less-than part-time pay, and adjunct faculty are denied access to the basic tools and working conditions of their profession, such as computers, office space and access to health insurance, that the public would expect institutions to provide to faculty. It is women, people over the age of 45, and minorities who comprise the majority of this workforce. The least we can do for these educators is facilitate their ability to negotiate their own working conditions.”

David Wilder, who teaches at Cuyahoga Community College and John Carroll University and serves as co-chair of the organizing committee of the newly forming Ohio Part-Time Faculty Association, said, “We want equal protection under the law. We want equal pay for equal work. Like all workers, we need to open up the legal space to bargain collectively so we can begin to address the deterioration of pay and conditions that we all face. We will no longer accept being treated as nonentities, having no recognition granted to those we may choose as our representatives. Above all, we are serious about the work we do, and we intend to restore professional standards to higher education. Our poor working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.”

“Ohio’s colleges and universities have had decades to prove that faculty unions are not necessary, and frankly, they’ve failed,”  noted NFM’s vice president, Matt Williams, a former adjunct faculty member at the University of Akron.

NFM has helped to launch the new Ohio Part-time Faculty Association, connecting adjunct professors from Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, Youngstown and Toledo thus far.

NFM and OPTFA leaders pointed out that the legislation would ultimately help to improve the academic and ethical quality of higher education, which could increase the value of college degrees in Ohio, a point of concern given skyrocketing tuition and student debt.

“Collective bargaining requires institutions to be more transparent and accountable for their financial decisions, and it’s time Ohio citizens knew how public colleges and universities are prioritizing how they spend students’ ever-increasing tuition payments,” Williams said.

Adjuncts typically earn an average annualized salary of $21,600 for teaching the maximum number of classes that research has shown to be acceptable without damaging the quality of education being offered.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with equivalent education, responsibility and experience average $65,000 per year.

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