by Mary Ellen Flannery, this article originally appeared on NEAToday.org.
More than 400 adjunct or contingent faculty members at the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) are joining the state’s largest education union, NEA Rhode Island, after a resounding vote for unionization this week.
With their vote, the CCRI adjuncts join a fast-growing movement of contingent faculty who see unions as a powerful means to improve their working conditions. Equally committed to student success as their tenured peers, these faculty members often struggle through miserable working conditions that undermine student learning.
“We are proud to welcome these new members, as they join our other strong CCRI unions in providing thousands of Rhode Islanders each year with an opportunity for a great college education,” said NEARI President Larry Purtill.
Across the country, more than a million faculty members, or about 75 percent of all college professors, are contingent; at CCRI, about 60 percent are. Despite their Ph.D.’s or other degrees, they typically earn less than a WalMart clerk—and less than a third have health benefits, either. (Making matters worse, many colleges have been cutting the working hours of adjuncts to avoid potential penalties under the Affordable Care Act.) The issues around their meager employment have become so dire even Congress is paying attention.
But adjuncts who belong to unions are much more likely to get benefits and better pay, and their collectively bargained contracts also are very likely to improve the working conditions that affect student learning.
Read the rest of the article at NEAToday.org.