Why are we organizing?
USC faculty are coming together to address the crisis in higher education. Contingent faculty teach the majority of classes at USC, yet we face low levels of compensation, little or no benefits, lack of institutional support for research and scholarship, and exclusion from governance. By coming together to form a union, we can raise standards for faculty, and have a real voice in the decisions that affect us and the students we teach.
What is USC Forward? Who is SEIU?
Through SEIU’s Faculty Forward initiative, over 13,000 faculty have formed unions and joined allies to challenge the status quo in higher education around working conditions, student debt, and access to higher education.
Faculty Forward is a project of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents 120,000 members in public and private higher education in the United States—40,000 of which are college and university faculty. Overall, SEIU is home to roughly 2 million members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
Who will be in charge of our union?
We embody and control every aspect of our union. As members of SEIU, we ARE our union and are committed to working with faculty across the nation to build a powerful organization, giving contingent faculty a real voice in higher education.
What will a union mean for me in real terms?
Forming a union enables contingent faculty to negotiate collectively for better terms of employment, using democratic processes to ensure that the interests of all non-tenure track faculty are represented. A union contract will establish a floor for what constitutes fair treatment and compensation, not a ceiling. At present, there is a ceiling but no floor.
Am I allowed to voice my opinion on unionization?
Yes. Federal law protects your right to organize for union representation. Under the National Labor Relations Act, you have the right to talk to your fellow faculty in the workplace about your views on unionization, organize with your coworkers to make your collective views known, attend meetings to discuss the benefits of union representation, and to distribute information to your coworkers about the union. It is against the law for an employer to threaten, coerce, or retaliate against you for exercising these legal rights in the workplace.
What effect will unionization have on faculty governance?
The collective power of a union will make our participation in the Academic Senate more meaningful.
While participation in the Academic Senate can work well for addressing academic issues, there are rarely mechanisms for faculty engagement around salaries, benefits, and all other terms of employment.
In the California State University system, the Faculty Senate governs academic issues, while the union negotiates workplace and employment issues. Union members there have successfully used the power of their union to protect faculty voice in academic governance.
What have faculty at other schools gained by forming a union?
Across the country, faculty who have organized with SEIU have seen significant gains in wages, benefits, job security, and professional development resources.
Faculty at Whittier College, Tufts University, and Lesley University all made significant gains in their first contracts. At Otis College of Art and Design, faculty won pay raises of 23% in their first contract, along with landmark improvements in benefits, job security, and professional development.