Science Careers Blog

January 7, 2008

George Washington University and Union Reach Agreement on Part-Time Faculty

The George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, DC, and union representing part-time faculty at the institution have agreed on a contract that union members ratified last Friday. The agreement is GWU's first contract with its part-time faculty. Anne McLeer, the director of research and strategic planning for local 500 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), tells Science Careers that 89 percent of those voting ratified the agreement, which went into effect on 1 January and runs until 30 June 2010.

The contract applies to regular faculty working part-time, those paid per course, and a few specialized hires. The agreement raises pay for regular part-time faculty, who get a $2,500 raise to a minimum of $21,000 per year. Faculty compensated per course get a $550 raise for each 3-4 credit hour class and a $330 increase for 1-2 credit courses. Those teaching non-standard or skills courses get a $100 raise.

The union, also negotiated improvements in job security for part-time faculty. Under the new agreement the part-time faculty can be fired when departments are eliminated or downsized, the courses they teach are discontinued, or their job performance is inadequate. Now, GWU must demonstrate just cause -- defined as substantial evidence of wrong doing -- to discipline or discharge part-time faculty. The contract includes union representation on disciplinary matters and a grievance procedure, with binding arbitration by a third party, if the union or faculty member believes just-cause was not established.

The agreement adds benefits for part-time faculty, including supplemental retirement, medical leaves of absence applicable under the Family Medical Leave Act, and public transportation reimbursement. While health benefits were not extended to faculty paid per-course, both sides agreed to jointly study the issue and bargain further.  McLeer says the joint labor/management committee studying the issue will meet no later than March.

There are more provisions on individual faculty member rights, union rights, and student evaluations. The union posted a summary of the provisions as well as the full contract on its Web site.

Unions representing part-time faculty are not unknown on American campuses; examples include Portland State University in Oregon that negotiated an agreement in 2005 and University of Rhode Island. One aspect of the GWU agreement that's different from the others is the union representing the part-time faculty. The SEIU generally represents blue-collar workers in the service economy, such as those found in health care, office cleaning, and security. On other campuses, you often find the traditional educational unions representing faculty: American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, and American Association of University Professors. 

Hat tip: Inside Higher Ed


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