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Unionized adjunct faculty advance toward collective bargaining agreement with Skidmore College

Skidmore's Broadway entrance
Aaron Shellow-Lavine
Skidmore's Broadway entrance

Negotiations between Skidmore College and organized faculty continue as the parties approach a final contract.

Last year, non-tenured faculty members at the private college in Saratoga Springs voted to unionize with SEIU Local200United by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.

English professor Ruth McAdams is a member of the Skidmore Faculty Forward organizing committee and says the group is focused on job security.

“The college, like many institutions of higher education, sadly, has a very nefarious practice of using short-term staffing to fill long term instructional needs,” said McAdams.

In her seventh year at Skidmore, McAdams says her career is emblematic of the situation.

“So, when I was hired in 2017, the college said to me, ‘we have a one-year, short-term, stop-gap need for someone to teach these classes, here’s a one-year contract with no possibility of renewal. So, they gave me the contract, it was the best offer I had at the time, I accepted. One year later, they said, ‘whoops, we have a one-year, stop-gap measure for someone to teach these courses, here’s another terminal contract with no possibility of renewal. And I said yes. And seven years later here I am having not moved any closer to greater job security,” said McAdams.

As far as a solution to this specific issue?

“We don’t think that that has to mean movement, conversion to the tenure track. We think that it’s possible for there to be secure contracts that are non-tenure track contracts. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve,” said McAdams.

According to McAdams, when the group went public with its organizing campaign the lowest salary among non-tenured faculty was around $50,000 per year.

She adds that a central goal of current negotiations is achieving greater transparency and equity in wages.

“The college’s labor practices with respect to non-tenured track faculty are really idiosyncratic and complex anyway. And there are certain categories of NTT faculty, for example those in the lab—who teach a lot of the lab sciences, sometimes they’ve historically had a title of ‘instructor.’ Those people have been paid particularly badly in comparison to people who have different titles though, in our view, very similar roles,” said McAdams.

By way of disclosure, WAMC hosts a news bureau on the Skidmore College campus. In a statement to WAMC, Skidmore says negotiations have been collaborative and productive saying, “the bargaining process has been educational and inclusive, and we will continue to negotiate in good faith until we reach our first collective bargaining agreement.”

SEIU Local200United Representative Sean Collins says the union represents the college’s nearly 200 non-tenured part- and full-time faculty and is seeking to establish a salary floor of $71,000 a year.

“We are also looking for responses in terms of professional development funding for non-tenured track faculty, their role in administrative service to the college. And then, you know, the big pieces though are really around settling the issues around appointments and assignments and job security provisions for faculty and fair pay and parity with their tenured track colleagues at the college,” explained Collins.

Collins is optimistic that the groups can reach an agreement by the end of the semester. He says negotiations have been amicable with strides being made in numerous categories.

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