Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Non-tenure-track faculty at the University of Southern California filed a petition Tuesday with the National Labor Relations Board seeking to hold union elections.

Faculty not on the tenure track began organizing in January with Service Employees International Union Local 721, which represents bargaining units in Los Angeles and the county, according to SEIU.

About 5,000 members of USC’s faculty do not have permanent professor or teaching posts, according to the university and the union.

“Non-tenure track faculty teach the majority of classes at USC, but despite our critical role, many of us are struggling to make ends meet,” said Kate Levin, who teaches writing at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

“Today’s action marks an important step towards winning real improvements for USC faculty,” she said.

USC Provost Michael Quick said the university’s non-tenure-track professors have a strong voice in university affairs.

“Our faculty have found that shared governance works,” Quick said. “Working directly with faculty, we have achieved real successes — full benefits at 50 percent time, higher salaries than the SEIU has negotiated at almost every school they have unionized, and enhanced job security by permitting multi-year contracts.

“And we have done this while … meeting the full needs of the students we admit, and spending more of our money on grant aid for students than almost any other university in the country,” Quick said.

“We have increased our student aid by more than 130 percent since 2001,” he said. “Two-thirds of the undergraduate student body receives financial aid. In the last seven years, the university has been able to limit tuition increases to their lowest point in 45 years, in our effort to minimize the impact on students.”

SEIU officials said that those signing the petition joined a “growing national movement” to improve pay and working conditions across college campuses.

“This next step in our unionizing efforts here at USC is such an exciting occasion,” said Alexis Disselkoen, an adjunct faculty at USC’s Roski School of Art and Design. “I am honored to be taking part with my colleagues. By coming together to form a union, we will gain a real voice in the decisions that affect us and the students we teach.”

Earlier this year, Whittier College faculty ratified their first contract, securing average pay increases of 35 percent and increased job security though protections on reappointment and evaluation, SEIU officials said.

The union accused colleges and universities of driving down the cost of instruction by hiring faculty into low-paid, temporary positions with no job security and little or no benefits.

Election dates will be determined by the NLRB in the coming weeks, according to SEIU.

— Wire reports 

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