The Coalition of Academic Labor:
Working towards improving the quality of academic jobs and higher education standards
Erich Vogt, Adjunct Professor, American University
“The situation [at American University] literally cried out for corrective action. So adjunct faculty rolled up their collective shirt sleeves and encouraged folks to sign union authorization cards. And you know what? The response was tremendous. Many asked us “Where have you been all these years? What took you so long? Others thanked us for our courage and commitment and congratulated us for doing the right thing. We realized our voices mattered very very little; individually none at all. We also acknowledged that those in power only listen to those who can also project power. And the only power willing to take on corporate power, in whatever clothes, is the union. It is us! The 99% forming strong unions.”
Kip Lornell, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University:
“Although they are ostensible non-profits, many large universities such as George Washington and Georgetown are actually complex businesses with a net worth in the billions and operating budgets in the hundreds of millions. The best way for employees to deal with such a large business is through unionization, which promotes not only solidarity but also provides the power of collective bargaining.”
Maureen Chalmers, Northwest Connecticut Community College:
“I am a teacher at Northwestern Connecticut Community College. I teach remedial and developmental reading and writing to Deaf and Hard of Hearing students attending the college. I am also an audiologist and work with the students on their expressive and receptive communication skills.
“The union is a vital source of power for an individual in the workforce. At a college we don’t face a lot of abuses like in some other areas of the work force, but the union has empowered us to have a voice in the development of the role of faculty and professionals on campus. It creates a healthy relationship between the faculty/staff and the deans and the presidents at the campuses. It enhances collegiality.
“My union has been a great support to the community that I work with; the Deaf. The skills I have learned in my capacity as a union leader have helped the Deaf navigate the daunting challenges of communicating with legislators. For unions like mine, it not just the workers’ wages and benefits, it’s creating an equal society at large that is the goal. My friend made a great analogy about the power of the unions when he said, ‘The world is full of Davids and Goliaths. Whenever a minority group or individuals band together to fix a problem, aka Goliath, they can be successful. Unions work for the collective good for all people, not just the unionized people.’“
Gabriela Pirralho, Adviser and Administrative Coordinator University of Washington:
“I work as the 100- and 200-level adviser and administrative coordinator at the division of Spanish and Portuguese studies at the University of Washington. I assist students, faculty and staff. I live at the U-District, since I cannot afford long commuting hours, being a full time employee, part-time student and single parent.
“I am glad to be part of SEIU Local 925. Through our united voice, my union gives me a way to advocate for professional fairness and improve my workplace. Also, through our political activities, I get the opportunity to make a positive impact for my community and ensure that our elected officials prioritize quality public services–especially during these times when there is so much political and economic turmoil. By coming together through SEIU Local 925, I am able to make a big difference in helping create a better future for my child.”
More about this campaign and the Coalition of Academic Labor at http://www.seiu.org/division/public-services/higher-ed/