New study shows increase in contingent faculty unions at private colleges
- A new study from the Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy shows that private college adjunct faculty unions have grown more than 25% since January 2016, about 23% higher than counterparts at non-profit public institutions.
- According to the study, the percentage of tenured faculty members across higher education has dropped from 78% in 1969 to 33% in 2009, with part-time professors growing by more than 400% between 1970 and 2003.
- 19 contingent faculty unions were formed at private colleges in the first nine months of 2016, compared to 12 unions formed at public institutions.
The lagging public college unionization efforts may be directly linked to growing legislation in states like Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa to end tenure systems, which reduces the bargaining position of faculty members outright who are seeking more leverage in labor negotiations. But with every success of graduate students and adjuncts to secure unionization clearance, combined with new guidance from the U.S. Department of Education on adjunct unemployment benefits, there is every reason for public schools to anticipate similar efforts coming to their campuses.
Presidents and provosts should plan with budget officers and work with deans and department chairs to begin the preliminary discussions about planned unionization efforts, to be transparent about expectations, challenges and realities that will allow for good faith bargaining without causing financial harm to institutions at large.