Adjunct faculty at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania just turned up the volume on the conversation about job security, fair pay and other resources they need to effectively reach their students. In an overwhelming 294-64 vote finalized on July 14, they chose to join the AFT.
That’s a strong 86 percent casting their votes in favor of establishing a collective voice through the union. Nearly 60 percent of CCAC’s 800 adjunct faculty members voted. Their full-time faculty colleagues have been affiliated with the AFT for more than 40 years.
The new local, Community College of Allegheny County Adjuncts United, will begin with a survey about adjunct priorities, but some are already clear in the testimonials circulated by CCAC faculty during the voting process. (Members of the local organizing committee are pictured with AFT President Randi Weingarten.)
Reflecting on why she wants to join the union, math adjunct Natalie Ahwesh says, “As an adjunct, I teach the same classes as full-time professors, but receive far less pay. I keep this job because I love my students, but they are the ones who suffer because I must teach at four different schools just to make ends meet,” she continues. “I would love to have more time to plan better lessons and spend with my students.”
Jennie Snyder, a professor in the art department, says she wants to offer her students a better opportunity than she’s had as an academic. “I have several students who hope to teach at a college level, and they truly believe they’re going to be homeless if they pursue a career in academics.”
“If we teach by example,” she adds, “what are we saying about their value when we, ourselves, are willing to work for ramen noodle wages?”
After the election Snyder added, “Because adjuncts make up the majority of educators at CCAC, speaking with one voice, as our full-time colleagues have done, will allow us to negotiate better working conditions such as sustainable pay, access to benefits, and job stability that would be impossible to achieve on an individual basis. Shared voice in governance will foster a sense of community within not only the adjunct unit, but the teaching population as a whole.”
The campaign to unionize CCAC adjuncts began two years ago and enjoyed support not only from the full-time faculty there but from union adjuncts across the nation. AFT members from Temple University, Eastern Michigan, Henry Ford, several universities in the Council of New Jersey State College Locals and others, sent video messages of support.
“As a young academic, I believe that we need to fight for more voice in governance and greater respect as workers,” says Luke Niebler, in CCAC’s English department. “We owe it to ourselves, our students and the future of the college to create a learning environment where all people are treated fairly.”