Hundreds of adjunct faculty at Temple University and their allies marched in Philadelphia on Feb. 23 with a massive 60-foot banner to protest the administration's decision not to allow a vote on collective bargaining. This demonstration was part of National Adjunct Action Week, which is supported by the AFT, the largest higher education union in the country.
The Temple adjuncts filed authorization cards in December with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board seeking union representation with the United Academics of Philadelphia, which is the AFT's Philadelphia-area local for adjunct faculty, and the Temple Association of University Professionals, which is the AFT-affiliated union for Temple's full-time tenure-track and nontenure-track faculty. But the university has challenged the election, and the case is pending before the state labor relations board.
"A vast majority of Temple's adjunct faculty want to vote to form a union, but their voices are being silenced," says Ryan Eckes, a nine-year adjunct faculty member in the English department and a Temple alumnus. "Collective bargaining would give the 1,300 adjuncts a vehicle to improve conditions for faculty and the students they serve, and make Temple an even more desirable higher education institution."
Common complaints among adjuncts—at Temple and elsewhere—include low pay, high and/or unpredictable workload, job conditions that sometimes mean working out of the back seat of a car, and no benefits. "Exploitation of adjuncts is extreme," says Wende Marshall, a member of the United Academics of Philadelphia. "I know members of the union who are teaching six courses at three different universities and trying to finish their Ph.D.," and still they struggle to make ends meet.
Across the country this week, AFT's 80,000 contingent faculty members are taking action to demand justice in their workplaces and inform the public about the overuse and exploitation of adjunct and contingent faculty. Activities will range from visibility actions to rallies to teach-ins to marches.
The AFT website has a list of events around the country.
[Dan Gursky, Virginia Myers, AFT media affairs]