It’s a sign of progress whenever contingent faculty are included in any kind of governance and union activity. So few of us are able to participate even in representing ourselves and one another in either university shared governance or union activities that the overall nature of both of these political avenues remains stolidly tenured- and tenure-track-dominated (except of course for locals which exclusively represent adjunct faculty). This can make it difficult for contingent issues to be addressed, let alone addressed successfully. So we applaud the news of contingent faculty members being appointed to the negotiations team of United University Professions (UUP), the largest higher education local in the U.S., for the next round of collective bargaining with the State of New York.
The eighteen-member negotiations team appointed by UUP President Fred Kowal and led by Chief Negotiator Philippe Abraham of SUNY Albany, will represent the interests of SUNY’s 35,000 Academic and Professional Faculty. UUP is a wall-to-wall unit and roughly 40% of UUP’s members are currently employed in contingent positions. About 16,000 of UUP’s members are academics and the remainder occupy professional positions as coaches, librarians, counselors, clinicians, patient care providers, student advisors, IT specialists, tutors, etc. The team will include three contingent members:
- Douglas Cody, a part-time lecturer in Chemistry at SUNY Farmingdale;
- Beth Wilson, a full-time lecturer in Art History at SUNY New Paltz; and
- Anne Wiegard, a full-time lecturer in English at SUNY Cortland.
The previous negotiations team included two contingent members, and the team before that included only one. While the increase in contingent team members signals increased recognition of the scope of issues such workers face, the composition of the team is not intended to be proportionate to the different categories of workers, but rather to provide the Chief Negotiator with a team whose members bring expertise in all aspects of the terms and conditions of employment of concern to UUP members.
The size of UUP’s Negotiations Team reflects the great diversity of occupation within the thirty-two campus system spanning the state, from urban research centers to small rural campuses, from teaching hospitals and medical schools to comprehensive colleges and specialized campuses like SUNY Maritime or ESF (Environmental Science and Forestry) or the non-traditional focused Empire State College campus.
The president of UUP has the sole constitutional authority for conducting contract negotiations and may appoint anyone (or choose to appoint no one) to assist in this endeavor. Historically, UUP presidents have appointed a team and a chief negotiator to engage in negotiations. UUP’s constitution does mandate that a Negotiations Committee with representatives of every campus chapter oversee the union’s major decisions such as the setting of priorities and the approval or rejection of a tentative agreement. The committee appointments have not yet been announced, but contingent faculty have previously been included in this body as well.
The current agreement will expire July 1 of 2016. UUP will be gathering extensive data from members this Fall via a negotiations survey available to every member and visits of team members to every campus for listening sessions. Throughout the negotiations process, individual comments and suggestions from members will be welcomed. The first meeting of the negotiations team will take place from August 18-20th in Lake Placid, NY.