AFT Resolution


WHEREAS, teachers unions were formed in order to demand and win professional pay and treatment for work that had previously been undervalued and viewed as non-professional; and

WHEREAS, as teachers unions have multiplied and grown, they have expanded their work, winning better pay and treatment for other educational workers, for paraprofessionals and for others in service of the public good; and

WHEREAS, in higher education, however, the past 40 years have seen a slow but devastating hollowing out of the profession, as public funding has been systematically reduced and universities and colleges have responded not by challenging the premise of austerity but by accommodating to scarcity: They have cut costs by replacing full-time tenured faculty with part-time contingent faculty, who are paid at a fraction of the full-timers’ rate; and

WHEREAS, the AFT has long taken the position that part-time faculty should be paid on the basis of parity with comparable full-time instructors; the first sentence of the AFT’s document on part-time faculty, Fairness and Equity, reads: “Part-time/contingent faculty should be paid a salary proportionate to that paid full-time tenured faculty of the same qualifications for doing the same work”; and   

WHEREAS, the Professional Staff Congress/CUNY has spent the past two years developing and intensifying a campaign to fulfill the AFT’s stated standard for adjunct pay; and

WHEREAS more than 70 percent of faculty appointments in higher education nationally are now held by nontenure-track, part-time and/or contingent employees, and colleges that serve the poor and people of color often rely most extensively on low-wage part-time faculty; and

WHEREAS, the City University of New York, whose academic employees are represented by the PSC, employs an exceptionally large number of adjunct faculty, currently more than 13,000; and

WHEREAS, CUNY is able to attract outstanding adjunct faculty despite low pay because of its location in New York City and the power of CUNY’s mission to draw committed, progressive teachers; and

WHEREAS, the starting pay for CUNY adjuncts is $3,222 for a regular three-credit college course; and

WHEREAS, several thousand CUNY adjuncts rely for their entire paycheck on their adjunct teaching at CUNY, cobbling together multiple courses for an annual income of about $25,000 for a full teaching load; and

WHEREAS, given the number of hours required for teaching a course, $3,222 per course barely amounts to $15 an hour, forcing some CUNY adjuncts to rely on public assistance and others to be evicted from their apartments; and

WHEREAS, CUNY adjuncts typically have advanced degrees, including multiple master’s degrees and Ph.D.s; and

WHEREAS, PSC has made major improvements for adjuncts during the last 17 years, including winning health insurance, paid office hours, three-year appointments with guaranteed income, professional development grant funds, improved sick leave and bereavement leave, and the conversion to full-time, salaried positions of more than 300 adjuncts and part-time instructors; and

WHEREAS, PSC is now attempting the hardest and most important adjunct improvement of all—fair pay—the goal of its collective bargaining demand for a minimum of $7,000 per three-credit course for adjuncts; and 

WHEREAS, the PSC’s campaign builds on the successes of other higher education locals in the AFT, which have also recognized that it is time for a fundamental transformation of adjunct pay and have waged winning campaigns for new salary standards for adjuncts, graduate employees and other contingent faculty; and

WHEREAS, each local must determine its own strategic goals and capacities; and

WHEREAS, every victory for any adjunct union is a victory for all education workers, especially for those that represent adjuncts, because the persistence of substandard pay devalues the education profession and creates an incentive to maintain low pay throughout education employment:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers supports PSC’s campaign for $7K and all other AFT locals’ campaigns for fair adjunct pay, and that the AFT leadership will call on AFT members to support  the PSC in actions, demonstrations and advocacy for $7K, because a victory on $7K at CUNY would be a victory for every teacher, professor, education worker and student in the country.