A year-long campaign to organize non-tenure track faculty at the University of Southern California has yielded mixed results. While faculty at USC's Roski School of Art and Design and USC's International Academy have voted to join the Service Employees International Union, those at USC's Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences voted not to.
Supporters of the unionization effort filed a petition last November, after months of organizing by the union. That triggered an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board for a proposed bargaining unit of about 430 people. Dornsife was the largest of the schools, so the bargaining unit will now be a lot smaller, closer to 100 faculty members.
With the vote, USC becomes one of the largest private universities with union faculty. It will join Georgetown, whose adjunct faculty became union in 2013, and Tufts, whose full-time faculty joined the union a year ago. Adjunct, part-time, or non-tenure-track faculty at the University of Chicago, Boston University and Loyola University in Chicago have also recently unionized.
Locally, the SEIU has successfully organized part-time professors at the Otis College of Art and Design and part-time faculty at Whittier College.
The USC faculty members who support unionizing are hoping to improve their wages and job security. They say that as non-tenure track faculty, they earn about $5,000 per class, which is not enough to live on in Southern California.
The SEIU says that at Whittier College, the first collective bargaining agreement for part-time faculty included average pay increases of 35 percent, one-year appointments for faculty starting with their second year of service and a course cancellation fee of $300 for courses cancelled within 21 days of the first class.
The new bargaining unit will not represent all non-tenure track professors at USC. According to the university, there are more than 4,000 non-tenure-track faculty. That dwarfs the roughly 1500 faculty that are either tenured or on the tenure track.