Students, faculty, and staff walked out of Seattle University buildings Wednesday afternoon to support an ongoing effort by adjunct and part-time faculty to unionize.
The demonstration was part of the National Adjunct Walkout Day, and comes as some Seattle U non-tenured faculty members continue their fight with the university administration to form a union. The hour-long demonstration stretched along the university’s section of 12th Ave and ended with a rally on campus.
Speaking at the rally, council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata called on the Seattle U administration to increase wages for “contingent” faculty members, which make up about half of the faculty. “Many of the PhD’s who are adjuncts qualify for food stamps,” Sawant said.
A statement from administration officials said the university has made strides in raising salaries for non-tenured faculty members and is working to address a shortage of office space for adjuncts. “We welcome the show of support for our adjunct faculty and adjuncts nationwide,” officials said in the statement.
Momentum to form an adjunct union at Seattle U started to build in 2013 with the involvement of Local 925 of the Service Employees International Union. At the time CHS obtained a letter from the administration that urged faculty members to reject a union and warned that unionizing may impede the school’s religious freedoms as faculty relations would be subject to federal rules.
Wednesday was a busy day for demonstrations on campuses around Seattle. Beyond the adjunct labor pickets, hundreds also marched on the University of Washington campus in a walkout “in solidarity with the Black Live Matter movement.”
Last year, Seattle U faculty did vote on forming a union, but legal opposition from the university administration has put the vote count on hold. Rally-goers called for the administration to drop the legal challenge and allow the vote count to move forward.
History professor Theresa Earenfight said the university was acting hypocritical by championing social justice issues while allowing for widespread inequality among its employees. As a tenured professor, Earenfight said she performs essentially the same duties as non-tenured faculty but enjoys much better benefits only because she happened to join the university at the right time.
Students and faculty also called for more budget transparency after the administration announced a 4% budget cut for 2015.