Strike averted: Ithaca College cuts a deal with contingent faculty

A late-night negotiating session has paid off, and Ithaca College struck a deal late Sunday night with SEIU Local 200 United, the union representing contingent faculty who were ready to strike this week. College and union representatives met on Sunday from 1pm until a deal was finally signed at 11:25pm.

“We are very happy to announce that the college has reached a tentative contract agreement with the union representing our part-time and our full-time contingent faculty members,” said Ithaca College Senior VP Nancy Pringle, Provost Linda Petrosino, and Professor Gwen Seaquist, who represented the College’s bargaining committee, in a late-night statement.

Contingent faculty, or teaching staff who don’t have permanent positions, were seeking improved job security as well as pay parity for part-time lecturers compared to full-time lecturers. As part of tonight’s deal, struck “literally at the 11th hour,” as one faculty member puts it, Ithaca College has agreed to recognize part-time and full-time contingent faculty as a single bargaining unit.

Another faculty member tells 14850 Today, “We won almost everything we asked for” in Sunday’s negotiations. Full-time contingent faculty will be offered two-year contracts after three years, and three-year contracts after five years, rather than the year-by-year deals offered now. Part-time contingent faculty will be offered two-year appointments after three years.

Full-time contingent faculty whose jobs are converted into continuing, or permanent, rather than contingent positions will be guaranteed an interview if they apply for the job.

Both part-time and full-time faculty will be given earlier notice of whether their appointments will be renewed. Until now, faculty whose contracts weren’t renewed often haven’t had time to seek a new job before their existing jobs ended.

Part-time contingent faculty, who had been paid less per course than full-time faculty members teaching identical courses, will see their wages increase by $1,000 per course, over a period of 3.5 years. Full-time contingent faculty are being given a smaller 1.75% raise.

In a vote last month, contingent faculty union members “voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if a fair first contact was not reached, with 88% voting to authorize the strike,” according to an SEIU statement earlier in March.

The union will now need to conduct a vote of its members to ratify the new deal, but in the meantime, the strike scheduled for this week has been called off.

Union members were prepared to walk out on strike this Tuesday and Wednesday, and had received letters of support from multiple departments on the Ithaca College campus saying either that they wouldn’t fill classes with substitute lecturers or even that permanent faculty would respect picket lines. Students had said they were “ready to walk out of our classrooms,” according to Ithaca senior Taylor Ford.

Pete Meyers of the Tompkins County Workers Center, a local labor group that had helped at demonstrations at the campus entrance, tells 14850 Today, “It’s wonderful that the Ithaca College administration came to terms with what the contingent faculty, as represented by SEUI 200 United, were asking for in their demands at the bargaining table.”

“The use of contingent faculty has increased around the country as a way for colleges and universities to cut costs,” Meyers adds. “The Ithaca College contingent faculty have accomplished a warning shot across the bow that says that taking advantage of contingent faculty is not acceptable.”

“We are confident that this new contract is fair, that it addresses the concerns of our valued faculty members, and that it enables the college to maintain excellence in a fiscally responsive manner,” said the statement from Ithaca College. “We would like to thank the union bargaining committee for working so diligently with us to resolve the remaining contract issues, arrive at an agreement, and avert a strike.”

 

The new deal between Ithaca College and its contingent faculty does not, however, affect unfair labor charges filed earlier this month on behalf of three faculty members.

The specific charges filed with NLRB state that “on or about February 2016 and thereafter, the above-named employer has interfered with, restrained, or coerced Rachel Gunderson, David Kornreich, and Shoshanna Cole in the exercise of their Section 7 rights by taking discriminatory adverse action against them.”

The union says the three named contingent faculty members, all members of the bargaining committee, are among those who’ve been told their year-by-year appointments are not being renewed for the 2017-2018 academic year.

This story is developing.

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