Across the country, adjuncts are pushing for union representation at colleges and universities. Today both Mills College (Oakland) and Northeastern (Boston) announced they voted “yes” to unionization. Howard University (Washington, D.C.) and the Maryland Institute College of Art (Baltimore) have recently formed adjunct unions, too. Marist College (Poughkeepsie) is seeking union organization, and the San Francisco Art Institute and the College of St. Rose (Albany) plan to vote on unionization over the next few months.
“We just want job security, pay, and benefits like any other profession,” mentioned Brian Cirmo who’s been teaching in St. Rose’s art department for ten years. Adjuncts at St. Rose and other colleges have started taking steps towards unionization, just over the last few months.
“Adjuncts are the McDonald’s workers of the education field,” Gary Kenton, an adjunct in the Communications Department at Marist College told me over the phone. Job security, pay, and healthcare are issues faced by all adjuncts, who now make up 47 percent of all secondary education faculty.
At St. Rose, they’re still in the process of generating enough interest in a vote. Cirmo remains optimistic, noting that over 50 percent of classes at St. Rose are taught by adjuncts.
“If adjuncts are going to be the future of higher ed, we need a better the situation for the students,” he said. At St. Rose, adjuncts rarely have office space. For his part, he shares an “open office that can be used by anyone.” Still, he’s not always on campus when students might need him—another issue many adjuncts are seeking to address through unionization. Cirmo, like many adjuncts, teaches at two to three colleges throughout year. As a studio instructor, the classes tend to be longer than in other departments, so he’s hopping from campus to campus instead of sticking around to mentor students.
“The idea of adjunct is a joke when you’ve been there for 10 years,” he said. “I’m young and felt if I put in my time…but after 10 years, I needed to take the steps to better the situation.”