ITHACA, N.Y. — The Ithaca College Contingent Faculty union voted at 88 percent to authorize a strike after 18 months of bargaining have failed to yield desired results.
In a news release, the union states, “The strike vote comes after months of escalation in the contingent faculty’s struggle for a fair first contract. The college administration has refused to budge on union proposals that would provide part-time lecturers pay parity with their full-time faculty colleagues and job security for full-time lecturers, the two main issues for the union membership.”
Two more federally-mandated meetings between negotiating committees and a federal mediator are scheduled to take place later this month.
The following is part of a statement from Senior Vice President Nancy Pringle, Provost Linda Petrosino, and Professor Gwen Seaquist, representatives of the Ithaca College bargaining committee:
The Ithaca College bargaining team is disappointed that the contingent faculty unions have announced that they have voted to authorize a strike. This announcement comes despite the fact that there has been significant and meaningful progress made to date in the negotiations for a part-time faculty contract—having reached tentative agreements on 23 separate articles—and that negotiations with the full-time contingent faculty are still at an early stage.
Read the entire statement here.
Update by Ithaca Voice reporter Jolene Almendarez.
ITHACA, N.Y. — Members of the Ithaca College contingent faculty union are voting whether to authorize a strike and will announce the results later Tuesday.
Members of the IC Contingent Faculty Union/Service Employees International Union, Local 200United have been bargaining with the college for more than a year. Union members say the administration has “refused to budge on pay parity with full-faculty colleagues for part-time lecturers.”
Rachel Kaufman, a lecturer in the writing department at Ithaca College, said the bargaining committees have spent many hours in mediation over winter break. Both sides agreed to have a federal mediator aid in the negotiations.
Though Ithaca College has said that progress is being made in bargaining negotiations, union members do not feel it has been enough. Over the past several months, faculty members have held rallies demanding more job security and higher wages, or “equal pay for equal work.”
Kaufman said there’s the feeling that “administrators are really stringing us along.”
The key issues for part-time and full-time contingent faculty members are job security and better wages. Kaufman said full-time contingent faculty members are especially interested in longer contracts so they can spend more time focusing on classes and planning their lives rather than spending hours looking for jobs. Full-time contingent faculty work on year-to-year temporary contracts.
In October, contingent faculty shared how low wages and job insecurity impacts them personally with a photo campaign that caught national media attention. Instructors in the campaign stood by white boards or chalk boards with a short written anecdote.
One contingent faculty member wrote she was on Medicaid. Some wrote they had to work on farms or do manual labor to support themselves.
One instructor wrote: “I have 16 years of physics teaching experience and make less than my grader.”
If a strike is authorized by majority vote, there is the potential for 300 contingent faculty members to strike.
Several departments at Ithaca College have written open letters, published in The Ithacan, supporting part-time and full-time contingent faculty during their bargaining process.
The results of the two-day vote will be announced at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in Ithaca College’s Campus Center.
Kaufman said part-time contingent faculty are fighting for “equal pay for equal work.”
Part-time professors make $1,400 per credit hour at Ithaca College, but are limited to how many credits they can teach. The most that a part-time faculty member could potentially make amounts to $16,800 per year. The union has proposed that part-time faculty receive equal pay as full-time faculty, meaning their wage would increase to $2,000 per credit hour.
At a rally in December, Sarah Grunberg, an instructor in the department of sociology, said there is a sharp difference in pay between part-time and full-time faculty.
“We have people here, like myself, who are teaching part-time and making that $1,400 per credit. My status was changed this year to full-time – I’m teaching the same course and getting a 60 to 64 percent pay raise just to teach it. Next semester I’ll be back to teaching part-time, and I’ll receive a pay cut,” she said in December.
Related: Ithaca College part-time faculty continue battle for job security
In December, representatives of the Ithaca College bargaining committee, Nancy Pringle, senior vice president, Provost Linda Petrosino and Professor Gwen Seaquist, said in response to the threat of a strike that “we are disheartened and frustrated at the adversarial tone, misleading allegations, and willingness to disrupt the learning environment for our students.”
If a strike does occur, the statement said the college will implement a plan to continue the delivery of courses.
“We strongly believe that disruption of the academic learning environment is not an appropriate response to the challenges that the bargaining teams are experiencing in the negotiations. We believe that we must remain at the bargaining table. In spite of how difficult or contentious the process can be at times, the college bargaining team is committed to bargaining in good faith, and we expect the SEIU bargaining team to maintain that same level of commitment,” the statement said.
There are two bargaining sessions planned for Feb. 21 and Feb. 24.
With this vote and a potential strike, Kaufman said union faculty are trying to send administration a strong message that they need to take the bargaining process seriously. Kaufman said faculty have been doing everything possible to avoid a strike. She said they are fighting not just for themselves, but for students too.
“Our working conditions are not only their learning conditions, but they’re also about to be their working conditions,” Kaufman said. “We’re fighting to make sure jobs out there are good for us and good for them.”
Featured image by Alyvia Covert/Ithaca Voice