Following in the footsteps of the part-time faculty union at New School University,  the independent Adjunct Faculty Association  at Nassau Community College has made what organizers call "substantial” progress on pay and labor issues. At the same time, they’re hailing successes by part-time unions as “the wave of the future,” since many colleges have become reliant on adjuncts.
Early Wednesday morning 32 union leaders representing 1,400 members, and college negotiators hammered out a strike-preventing deal with the following highlights:
- A five-year contract for part-timers until November 2010 with 3.9 percent across the board pay increases each year. Currently the pay scale for adjuncts ranges from about $900 to $1,445 per semester, based on education.
- Starting in the third year of the contract, part-timers with 20 years or more service (currently about 400 teaching staff) will receive $30 per contact hour in third year, $40 per contact hour in the fourth year and $50 per contact hour in the fifth year.
- On the personal leave front, a new benefit allows part-timers to earn up to 3 days in a year and can accumulate to up to a maximum of 40 days.
- Part-timers become eligible to pay full costs for health insurance coverage through any of the four existing county HMO plans.
Union members voted unanimously on Wednesday to support the terms.
“We’re especially happy with the pay increases and the longevity agreement,” said Charles Loiacono, president of the Adjunct Faculty Association. “This contract is positive for adjuncts who are just starting out and ones that have been around for longer.
“It’s inevitable that part-time unions will keep making strides,” he added. “With the number of adjuncts teaching at many colleges nowadays, institutions are learning that they’d have to padlock themselves if everyone went on strike.”
Part-timers, in fact, teach approximately 54 percent of the courses offered at Nassau Community College.
While some college officials played down the risk of strike, the official statement from Sean Fanelli, president of the college, was: "We're pleased that we have reached a fair and equitable agreement.... I have every reason to believe that the Board of Trustees will view the proposal favorably."
The board will vote on whether to approve the negotiated contract on November 17.
Reggie Tuggle, a spokesman for the college, also offered a positive tidbit about the Adjunct Faculty Association, indicating that the union, which has been independent since the mid-1970s, did a “good job on advocating on behalf of its membership.”
Robert Gaudino, vice president of the union, detailed that advocacy a bit further, noting that organizers purposely decided to have a large number of union members at the negotiating table in a show of solidarity. “It showed the other side that we were serious,” he said, “and the fact that we’re a democratic organization.”
Gaudino cautioned against forming unions that represent the interests of both full-time and part-time employees. “They don’t do so well,” he said. “If you want adjuncts to succeed they have to organize together.”
“These steps are all important,” Loiacono said, “because we will be building on them in the future.”