Ithaca College contingent faculty vote to approve strike

At the close of two days of voting, Ithaca College’s part-time lecturers and full-time contingent faculty members have authorized the SEIU Local 200 United Bargaining Committee, which represents the IC Contingency Faculty Union, “to call for any action up to a strike.”

Voting took place in Ithaca College’s Campus Center over the last two days. Photo courtesy of Chris Machanoff.

A release from SEIU Local 200 United says the authorization vote, with 88% of votes cast to authorize actions including a strike, came after 18 months of bargaining efforts between the union and Ithaca College’s administration.

In a statement, Tom Schneller, bargaining committee member and part-time lecturer in Ithaca College’s School of Music, said, “We are energized and excited by the outcome of the vote, which demonstrates that contingent professors at IC are fed up with the status quo and willing to stand up and fight for job security and fair pay.”

At issue in the contract negotiations were job security for full-time lecturers and pay parity for part-time lecturers. We’ve heard over the last few weeks from multiple Ithaca College contingent faculty who have been told their jobs will not be renewed beyond this semester. Contingent faculty are academic staff who are hired on a semester-by-semester or year-by-year basis, rather than on permanent appointments.

Faculty whose contracts are not renewed often don’t have time to seek a new job before their existing jobs end. “So far the administration has refused to provide greater stability for the group of contingent faculty most impacted by this,” says Chris Machanoff, who represents SEIU Local 200.

Machanoff tells us the union negotiating committee “will return to the bargaining table for two more federally mediated bargaining sessions.” This week’s vote has authorized the negotiators to take actions on behalf of the union up to and including a strike.

An updated statement from Ithaca College says, “The Ithaca College bargaining team is disappointed that the contingent faculty unions have announced that they have voted to authorize a strike.” The statement adds, “There are bargaining sessions with a federal mediator set for February 21 and February 24. The college is eager to continue the negotiation process in these sessions to hopefully reach a final resolution. The bargaining team believes any strike activity prior to these sessions, or while meaningful progress is still being made, would be premature.”

The College says that while the 15-month negotiation process to date ” is longer than any of us would have liked, first contracts often take over a year to complete due to the fact that there is no existing contract from which to start negotiations.”

According to IC’s administration, negotiations “have reached tentative agreements on 23 separate articles” and “have only three provisions remaining under negotiation.”

They say the remaining issues under negotiation are:

  • The recognition clause: This clause defines which positions are included in the bargaining unit.
  • Pay for union business time: The union is requesting that the college compensate union leaders for time they spend conducting union business.
  • Wages: On February 2, the college submitted a new wage increase proposal for part-time faculty to the union. The union is currently reviewing that proposal.

Ithaca College’s statement from Senior Vice President Nancy Pringle, Provost Linda Petrosino, and Professor Gwen Seaquist, representatives of the Ithaca College bargaining committee, stresses that “a strike authorization vote is just that — an authorization to strike if negotiations stall.” They insist both sides are still moving, and “the college bargaining team is committed to working toward our mutual goal of a negotiated collective bargaining agreement.”

“In the event a strike occurs,” tonight’s statement says, “the college will remain open and will be as flexible as possible to help faculty and students navigate the logistics of the strike while fulfilling our educational requirements and delivering the educational experience our students expect.”

This story is developing.

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