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Skidmore’s non-tenure faculty continues union effort; college says it’s addressing their concerns

The signage at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, July 2, 2020.
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The signage at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs on Thursday, July 2, 2020.

SARATOGA SPRINGS Non-tenure-track members of Skidmore College’s faculty submitted a unionization petition to federal labor regulators Friday in hopes of boosting their pay, job security and influence on campus.

More than 60% of the approximately 170 full- and part-time teaching faculty signed the petition, according to Service Employees International Union Local 200United, which would represent them.

The union last week announced the intention to organize, and called on the college to recognize the union and prevent the need to petition the National Labor Relations Board.

The college declined. In a statement Friday, it said:

“The decision about union membership is a personal choice. Employees have a right to vote by secret ballot in an election conducted by federal officials. It is not the college’s place to preemptively substitute its judgment for that of individual employees, nor would it be appropriate for the college to waive our employees’  right to vote. If the union is certified as the employees’ representative, Skidmore will, of course, work constructively and bargain in good faith, just as we do with the six other employee unions on campus, with which we have good working relationships.”

Tenured and tenure-track faculty are blocked from unionizing by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared some of their duties as managerial.

Union organizers say non-tenure-track professors are working just as hard as their tenured colleagues but for less money and without any job security — not just at Skidmore but at many institutions of higher learning.

In a prepared statement Friday, Dominique Vuvan, assistant professor of psychology, said: “I’m proud and excited to stand in solidarity with my non-tenure-track colleagues’ unionization effort. In addition to it being a legal right, it is a fundamental moral right of workers to organize to better their working conditions. The advocacy and stability that NTT faculty will gain from this union will impact all faculty positively, which will have widespread benefits to the whole Skidmore community. All faculty, regardless of tenure-line status, should be invested in the success of this collective action.”

After organizers went public with their efforts last week, Skidmore President Marc Conner sent a note to the college community saying Skidmore has been aware of and is looking at the concerns they raised.

“We will address in a constructive and meaningful way the concerns they have raised, many of which we share,” he wrote. “Indeed, since last fall, the Faculty Compensation Study Working Group, made up of tenured and non-tenure track Skidmore faculty and administrators, has been engaged in productive conversations about our compensation system, with the goal of adopting a transparent and equitable salary structure for our faculty. This work is nearly complete, and the results will be presented as part of our State of the College Finances meeting on May 24.”

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