Unionized College Faculty Are Winning Themselves a Lot of Money


Unions are not just a feel-good sort of thing to do. New research about higher ed unions shows just how much workers have actually gained from organizing, in a short period of time.

One of the most active areas of new union organizing in America is higher education: adjunct professors and other academic and non-academic workers on college campuses, who tend to have shockingly low pay and poor job security even though they tend to be highly educated and work in prestigious settings. Those are the sort of ingredients that can motivate people to unionize. And voila: it has been so. And the gains have been clear. Duke University non-tenured faculty members who signed their first union contract this summer immediately got double digit raises and improved job security.

Researchers at the SEIU, one of the unions most active in organizing college faculty, have taken a crack at quantifying the actual gains that workers in that industry have made so far, through unionizing—faculty at more than two dozen colleges across the country, including more than 4,000 people in the Boston area alone. And here is what they came up with:

  • “In Boston, 20% of adjunct faculty at traditional private colleges were represented by a union in 2012. Now 48% have a union and 4,100 have united in SEIU alone. In the Bay Area, union density grew from 21% in 2012 to 71% today. Nearly 40% (3%) of Chicago adjuncts are unionized, up from 25% in 2012. There were no adjunct unions at private colleges in Minneapolis/St. Paul metro in 2012. Today, 27% have a union.”
  • “63% of the SEIU Faculty Forward first contracts include pay raises of at least 20% for the lowest paid faculty, and 43% of contracts have pay raises of 30% or more for the lowest paid.
  • “Over 70% of new SEIU Faculty Forward contracts include a professional development program worth over $550,000.”

This is all just to illustrate, with numbers, a fact that has always been true, whether you are a college professor or a janitor: If you unionize your workplace you will get more than you have now, and the reason your boss does not want you to do so is because they don’t want to give you more.

But it’s all just sitting on the table, waiting for you to pick it up.

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