Wave of Contingent-Faculty Organizing Sweeps onto Campuses

October 10, 2014 / Phil Lesch

Labor Notes
October 9th, 2014

A wave of organizing is sweeping contingent faculty. Below, a list of current campaigns in 22 states and D.C. shows how far and wide this wave has spread.

The new thing is the Metro Strategy, where multiple institutions are targeted at once so a whole regional workforce becomes unionized. This takes advantage of how contingent (also known as adjunct) faculty members typically commute among various campuses, facing equally bad working conditions everywhere they go.

The goal is a master contract for the workforce. The Service Employees (SEIU) is taking the lead in this, but other unions are stepping up too.


Several things should be clear from this roundup. First is the obvious massive presence of SEIU. Its decision to implement the Metro Strategy has caught the attention of other unions and other parts of the contingent faculty movement.

Of course, any significant struggle has its own internal struggles, and this one is no exception. Given the several election losses and petition withdrawals by SEIU, serious discussion has emerged about its particular application of the otherwise broadly accepted Metro Strategy. Which comes first, union-building or winning elections? How do you balance long-term and short-term goals? How do you get faculty, who are often angry and afraid, to step up and fight? Is there a “best way” to implement the Metro Strategy? How important are coalitions among unions? How about community coalitions?

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