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Unionized adjunct faculty begin bargaining with Skidmore College

The North Broadway entrance to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs
WAMC
The North Broadway entrance to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs

Recently organized faculty at Skidmore will sit down with college leadership today for their first collective bargaining session after a successful union election in September.

Non-tenure track faculty at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs voted by a nearly 2-to-1 margin to unionize with SEIU Local200United. According to the National Labor Relations Board, full-time NTT faculty voted 64 to 35 in favor of organizing. The tally among part-timers was 38 in favor to 19 opposed. The vote came after a campus rally last spring brought out supporters from faculty and the student body. 

A bargaining unit from the organized workers is now seeking its first contract with the private liberal arts college.

Ruth McAdams, an English professor and a member of the Skidmore Faculty Forward organizing committee, says a raise in pay is needed to meet the high cost of living in Saratoga.

“The housing prices in Saratoga are extremely high. They’re 77 percent higher than the national average – in Saratoga County, that is – so we feel that significant raises are needed,” said McAdams.

Skidmore increased wages after a year-long pay study during the 2021-2022 academic year, a study begun before the unionization campaign went public.

But McAdams says that increase is not enough.

“We feel that they’re still inadequate to the kinds of raises that would really be needed to support non-tenure track faculty fully,” said McAdams.

According to the college, non-union staff salaries begin at a minimum of $31,300.

The union would not specify its desired salary range as talks begin.

Besides pay, McAdams says non-tenure track faculty also lack job security.

“Many of the non-tenure track faculty at Skidmore who meet stable, long-term instructional needs are nonetheless employed on terminal contracts that offer no stability and leave faculty very vulnerable to reprisal,” said McAdams.

SEIU union representative and organizer Sean Collins says the disparities between non-tenure track faculty and their tenure-track colleagues are not unusual.

“Unfortunately, and this isn’t just at Skidmore, but in higher education, there is this sort of unfortunate bifurcation of benefits and pay that are provided to tenure track faculty who teach the same students as non-tenure track faculty, part-time or full-time,” said Collins. “And we’re hoping to close that gap and achieve parity.”

With the collective bargaining process underway, Skidmore College provided a statement to WAMC that reads in part:

“At this meeting, we expect to receive a presentation from our NTT colleagues, and we look forward to listening to their presentation. We anticipate scheduling an ongoing series of collaborative meetings to address the items raised by our colleagues, including compensation and benefits, to arrive at an agreement that aligns with our support of our NTT faculty.”

McAdams said at a meeting last week, Skidmore College President Marc Conner did not mention the upcoming bargaining session but did say the college’s financial outlook is strong.

“I took that as a promising sign that the college will finally be giving us the support that we need,” said McAdams.

By way of disclosure, WAMC operates a news bureau on the Skidmore College campus.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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