Despite national and local attacks on unions, including the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Janus v. AFSCME case, non-tenure track (NTT) faculty at the University of Iowa were able to win expanded benefits for ‘visiting’ faculty members, including health insurance, dependent coverage, retirement, and sick leave. The victory comes after a months-long direct action campaign, including a sit-in at the school president’s office, to secure meetings with high-level university leaders, including President Bruce Harreld, to improve wages, benefits and job security.
“This is a fundamentally important policy change that will make a positive difference in the lives of visiting faculty like me,” said Faye Bartram, a Visiting Assistant Professor of History at the university. “This past year, I spent nine months unable to sit down due to chronic pain. Ultimately, the issue was resolved after just one trip to the emergency room, which cost me $2,000 out of pocket without insurance. If I had had health insurance, as I would under the new policy, I could have simply gone to the doctor when the problem first arose. I am glad that we were able to work with the administration to improve the well-being of University faculty and their families so that we can have the stability and peace of mind we need to focus on our students and pedagogical methodology.”
This victory is the latest milestone for the NTT faculty who are prevented from forming a union through the traditional process because of a controversial state law that limits public sector workers from unionizing. In the face of attacks that seek to limit working people’s ability come together for change and bargain collectively, faculty at the University of Iowa have decided to become associate members of SEIU and organize for change by pushing the administration to do the right thing. Previously, NTT faculty marched on the president’s house and staged a 10-plus hour sit-in at the office of President Bruce Harreld to demand a meeting to discuss their need for better wages, job security, adequate health care and respect. Since then, the faculty have been meeting with administrators on an ongoing basis to address their demands.
Despite a controversial state law passed in 2017 limiting the ability of public sector workers to bargain collectively, NTT faculty have taken to the streets to ensure their collective demands for change are met. Their campaign comes in the wake of other successful direct actions led by teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona as well as union organizing drives of contingent faculty across the Midwest. Within the last month alone, NTT faculty at University of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago have ratified new contracts with pay increases of up to 51 percent and more secure and transparent appointments.
Faculty Forward, a project of the Service Emplo1yees International Union (SEIU), is home to more than 54,000 unionized college and university faculty who have won improvements in pay, job security, benefits and more on more than 60 campuses nationwide. For more information, visit seiufacultyforward.org.
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