ITHACA, NY – While it’s not as prominent as last year’s protests, Ithaca College is still dealing with some turmoil between the administration and faculty.

In May of last year, IC’s part-time faculty voted to form a union, citing complaints about compensation and job security that are being faced by adjunct professors at Ithaca College and across the nation.

A union organizer told The Ithacan that part-time faculty make about $16,800 a year for teaching 12 credits worth of classes. While this is approximately half the base rate for a full-time contingent professor, the organizer said that no full-time professors at IC were paid less than $48,000. The part-time faculty are looking to be compensated at parity with the full-timers, as well as seeking improvements to job security and consistency.

On Sept. 23, the union negotiating team walked away from the bargaining table. According to a statement from the union negotiating team, they felt that the administration was unprepared “had not come to the table with serious counterproposals on faculty compensation, job security or longer term appointments for over a month.”

Ithaca College full-time faculty member and negotiating team member Sarah Grunberg who was there at the walkout said, “These are proposals that we had been waiting on for a long time, and that we had been discussing with the administration for even longer.  They had asked us to engage in lengthy discussions with them where it appeared they were really listening to us, so we were very disappointed when they continued to show up with nothing of substance.”

Additionally, the negotiating team announced that they had rejected a request from the administration to bring in a federal mediator and would not return to the negotiating table until the administration made clear they were willing to respond to key proposals put forth by the union. In addition, the union and their student allies may hold demonstrations at upcoming events.

“We believe that a mediator is not what’s necessary at this moment,” said bargaining team member Rachel Kaufman in the statement. “We need to see real movement on the part of the administration, movement that will help bring faculty off the fringes and allow them to make ends meet.  We also want to ensure that something is done about seniority and job insecurity; it’s only fair to our students, they should know what faculty will be here to teach them next year.”

Ithaca College responds

In their own statement, Ithaca College refuted the idea that they were “unprepared’ for the negotiations, laid out the progress that had been made in negotiations so far and affirmed a “commitment to good-faith baragaining.” You can read their statement below:

[su_note]Ithaca College is committed to its students and employees, and is negotiating with those commitments in mind. We prefer to make progress at the bargaining table, and with tentative agreements on 16 articles to date, considerable progress in these contract negotiations has been made. The college remains committed to negotiating a collective bargaining agreement in the interests of the college, its students, and its part-time faculty.

It is regrettable that the union bargaining committee has stated that it will reject mediation and, rather than negotiate at the bargaining table and communicate directly with representatives of the college, has chosen to communicate that decision and its bargaining positions via press release. The college is also very concerned that the union release states that the union will not honor the future bargaining dates offered at the last bargaining session (October 12 and 24 were offered by the union and have been accepted by the college), and will precondition the resumption of negotiations on the college adjusting its bargaining position.

To set the record straight, the college did not come to the last bargaining session unprepared. The college commenced the session with a lengthy discussion of the economic terms in place at other regional institutions and other SEIU-negotiated contracts, as well as a summary of the historical wage increases for the unit. This information was presented as part of the context in which the proposals by the parties should be considered—relevant information to the discourse at the table.

The college also, in response to prior feedback received from the union, altered and enhanced its wage proposal in all three years of the proposed term of the agreement. The college was also prepared to present additional proposals at the session, when the union committee ended the session without articulating their concerns or exploring possible common ground on the open issues.

The college will continue to bargain in good faith. The college expects and hopes that the union committee will meet its statutory duty to bargain in good faith and return to the table. The college believes that engaging the previously appointed federal mediator, assigned by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to the parties—a step which has proven successful nationwide in helping finalize contract negotiations (and especially first contract negotiations)—could be helpful as we proceed.

The college’s commitment to good-faith bargaining remains, however, with or without a mediator. The rejection of a mediator would ordinarily imply that the union feels progress can still be made without a professional mediator, and the college is willing to proceed on that basis as well.[/su_note]

Disclosure: A person quoted in this article is a member of The Ithaca Voice Board of Directors. We do not feel this has biased our reporting on the issue.

Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.