WXXI AM News

Connections: Discussing adjunct professors' efforts to unionize

May 14, 2018

Three-quarters of American college professors are adjuncts, according to various recent studies. The Atlantic Monthly framed the issue in terms of a battle for not just working professors, but the quality of higher education; the magazine explored the question, "Can a budding labor movement improve the lives of non-tenured faculty - and, in the process, fix higher education?"

We discuss the move toward unionization among adjuncts, and what that might mean for professors and students. Our guests:

  • Colleen Wolf, adjunct lecturer in music at Nazareth College
  • Jake Allen, organizer for SEIU-Faculty Forward at Nazareth College
  • Pat Domaratz, labor relations specialist employed by NYSUT
  • Paul Ciminelli, Second Amendment expert and attorney at Ciminelli & Ciminelli, and adjunct professor in homeland security management at Monroe Community College

*Nazareth College President Braveman has expressed four key points and a statement to the campus community regarding this matter:

1. Nazareth is committed to sustaining our positive and collaborative culture in service to our students and community;

2. Nazareth supports the right of part-time faculty members to have their voices heard and to decide―without pressure―whether or not they want outside union representation;

3. Nazareth will provide thorough and factual information about unionization to part-time faculty members so they can make an informed decision about their future; and 

4. Nazareth hopes that every part-time faculty member will vote in the election.

The part-time faculty members are a vital part of the Nazareth community. These talented educators teach 1/3 of our credit hours, and provide important real world, practical and hands-on expertise for our students, whether, for example, giving music lessons, supervising our student teachers, serving as clinical supervisors for students in our health and human services programs, or teaching in the classroom.

We acknowledge that there are issues of concern to part-time faculty that we need to address and which we have begun to address over the past few years. It is up to each part time faculty member to decide whether these issues now should be addressed directly with the College or through a representative party.

Nazareth’s position is not anti-union.  We have not engaged in any pressure tactics. We have not required part-time faculty members to attend meetings.  We have not made any promises or any threats.  We have not met privately with part-time faculty members. We have not engaged in any anti-union communications. Indeed, every communication we have issued is publicly available on the website (https://www2.naz.edu/academic-affairs/union-organizing-resources/faqs/).  

We invited the union to make a similar commitment to elections that are free of pressure.Instead, the union has attempted to pressure individuals through such tactics as going to their homes, calling them at their homes, and stopping them on campus.

We are continuing to work with our legal counsel of record for the past 37 years to ensure compliance with the numerous obligations that are imposed on employers under the National Labor Relations Act.  As with all legal counsel, they perform their work under our direction.  We have been clear and consistent in our direction that we will not apply any pressure. It should be noted that SEIU is also using outside legal counsel during the election process.

We are committed to the principle that each part-time faculty member should be able to decide for herself or himself whether to be represented by the union based on accurate information and without pressure. We will remain true to that principle.