Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Part-time teachers pushing for union

UC adjuncts seek representation

By Maggie Downs
Enquirer staff writer

A group of part-time teachers at the University of Cincinnati is expected to take another step today toward gaining formal recognition as a bargaining unit.

This will be the first time part-time college and university instructors in Ohio have requested the right to negotiate a contract on their behalf. Ohio law does not require universities to acknowledge part-time faculty members in a collective bargaining group.

Since 2002, many UC part-time instructors - also called adjuncts - have been saying they want equal pay.

They became affiliated with the Ohio Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers, which represents more college and university faculty than any other union nationwide.

The local group sent a letter requesting unionization to UC President Nancy Zimpher on June 7. They did this after getting a majority (about 60 percent) of the approximately 1,000 adjuncts at UC to sign cards saying they wish to be represented as a union under AFT.

At UC, adjuncts teach more than half of the undergraduate courses, according to the Adjunct Faculty Association.

"Their ranks are rapidly growing as colleges and universities avoid hiring full-time faculty, preferring to add part-timers who are paid much less," said Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. "Ohio is no exception; the exemption from guaranteed bargaining rights makes it easy for colleges and universities to treat adjuncts as casual labor."

But Greg Hand, UC spokesperson, said that is not true.

"The data collected by the Ohio Board of Regents statewide indicate, first of all, that adjuncts teach a bit more than a third of undergraduate classes," he said.

"And also, the percentage of adjuncts at UC is among the lowest in the state."

Many adjuncts are hoping a union would help them improve their salaries, obtain health benefits and have better working conditions.

"Most don't even have office space to sit down with students or telephones of their own," Mooney said.

An adjunct professor makes about $17,000 per year for teaching a full course load; the average full-time professor makes $60,000, Mooney said.

"These are people with master's degrees, doctorates," he said. "Many of them are trying to make a living at this."

Hand said the salaries are not comparable.

"Full-time faculty members are not paid simply to teach. They are paid to continue their own scholarship, to conduct research, to govern the university, to participate in the academic arenas and to provide service not only to the university but to the community," he said. "If full-time faculty did nothing but teach, then that might be a reasonable comparison, but that is simply not the case."

The Adjunct Faculty Association believes union representation can reduce teacher turnover, allow adjuncts a voice in campus affairs and give teachers more time with students.

"Better pay, working conditions and benefits will help stabilize and energize this neglected but extremely important part of the university," said Greg Loving, adjunct professor of philosophy at UC's Clermont College and chairman of the Adjunct Faculty Association's organizing committee.

The university believes there are other ways to improve the situation for adjuncts at UC, Hand said. For example, the university has adjunct representation in the university faculty senate, as well as advisory committees of adjuncts in the separate colleges, he said.

"We believe that separate union recognition for individuals who are also involved in teaching in our classrooms would not be in the best interest of the university or the students," Hand said.

UC's full-time faculty, office personnel, plant operators and custodians are unionized.


E-mail mdowns@enquirer.com

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