SARATOGA SPRINGS – In a major milestone for an organizing effort that began in 2018, full-time and part-time, non-tenure-track faculty and other Skidmore College staff voted this month in favor of unionizing.
The National Labor Relations Board conducted two separate mail-in elections – one for full-time staff and one for part-time staff – and 65% of full-time staff voted to join with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 200United, while 67% of part-time employees voted in favor of joining the union, according to an SEIU news release.
The votes, announced Sept. 27, affects approximately 215 full-time and part-time non-tenure-track faculty, librarians and accompanists who make up nearly half of Skidmore’s total faculty, according to SEIU. Overall, 83% full-time non-tenure-track faculty and 65% part-time adjunct faculty voted in the election. The results were 64-35 from full-time non-tenure-track faculty, and 38-19 from part-time faculty in favor of joining the union, according to a Skidmore spokesperson.
Unionization is seen as a way to improve wages and working conditions for the non-tenured workforce.
“These are victories for the whole Skidmore community – faculty, staff and students. Collective bargaining rights will allow us to secure the support that we need to do the jobs that we have – as non-tenure-track teachers and scholars,” Ruth McAdams, a teaching professor of English and a Skidmore Faculty Forward organizing committee member, said in a statement. “We’re excited to get to the bargaining table right away to address some of the underlying needs that led us to organize – issues around pay, precarity and a voice on campus.”
Skidmore’s leaders are ready to begin talks, according to a spokesperson.
“The college will move forward with collective bargaining in a good-faith effort to reach mutually agreeable terms,” spokesperson Sara Miga said in an email. “Our support of our non-tenure-track faculty colleagues remains a priority for the college. We respect and admire their individual and collective contributions to our mission.”
Ballots in the mail-in election were sent out on Monday, Sept.12, and eligible faculty had two weeks to return their ballots. Tenured and tenure-track faculty are blocked from unionizing by a U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared some of their duties as managerial.
Skidmore Faculty Forward/SEIU went public with their organizing drive earlier this year in May after starting the effort in 2018 following moves toward unionization by faculty at other colleges and universities in New York.
In 2014, 160 part-time and full-time contingent faculty at Siena College voted to unionize. In 2017, 800 adjunct and full-time, non-tenure-track faculty at Fordham University voted 16-to-1 to unionize, according to SEIU.
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.