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SUNY Union Holds Rally for Longer Contracts, Compensation, Telecommuting at Dutch Quad

By Daniel Meyers | May 1, 2023

Wearing red union t-shirts, members of the United University Professionals (UUP) showed up at University at Albany’s Dutch Quad to express their support for a better labor contract last month. This was the first of a series of contract rallies and events in the coming weeks.

United University Professionals logo.

Photo Credit: UUP

The state and the union representing State University of New York (SUNY) employees have made, according to an April bulletin by UUP, “little or no progress” on the union’s cornerstone demands of job security, compensation, and telecommuting.

“Put simply, if the State wants quality public higher education, it must invest in higher-ed workers,” the latest union bulletin said. “If the State wants quality public healthcare, it must invest in healthcare workers.”

Union representatives have declined interview requests by the Albany Student Press about specific details of the negotiations.

At last month’s rally on April 21, Deborah Lafond, Subject Librarian for Africana Studies, Educational Psychology and Counseling, Psychology, as well as Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at UAlbany, said she values academic freedom, and “being able to teach without being fired.”

Since contract negotiations began nearly a year ago, the union has been pushing for longer-term employment contracts for part-time and full-time-non-tenured teaching staff to help improve job security.

The union is requesting 3-to-4-year contracts for adjuncts and full-time non-tenured teaching staff, up from the current 1-to-2-year contracts, according to the bulletin.

UUP is also fighting for higher pay for adjuncts and full-time faculty who are not tenured. Currently, adjuncts at UAlbany make between $3,750 and $3,250 per three credit course. The union wants to increase that pay to at least $7,000 per three credit course.

The ASP could not verify the average salary of full-time faculty who are not tenured.

The state did not offer an increase in the base pay per class for adjuncts but did offer the union a four-year agreement with raises of 2% in 2022, and 3% in 2023-25 respectively, plus 1% pools for Discretionary Salary Increase awards in each year of the agreement. The union is continuing to push for greater across-the-board raises and to replace the “flawed and corrosive” DSI structure, according to the bulletin.

The governor’s office and the SUNY Albany press office did not respond to an interview request about the negotiations.

Data from the American Association of University Professors shows that the percentage of part-time employees at UAlbany has steadily increased from 48.39% to 48.47% from fall 2002 to fall 2021. Meanwhile, the rate of non-tenure track employees, who are appointed on either temporary contracts of less than one or full-time contracts of 2-to-3 years but are not tenured, in that same period rose from 8.89% to 12.55%.

Meanwhile, the rate of tenured employees at the University decreased from 26.09% to 23.63% from 2002 to 2021.

Similarly, the percentage of tenure-track employees decreased from 11.26% to 8.77% in the same time frame. Another, new study by the American Association of University Professors shows that tenure rates for educators are down across the country.

“Over two-thirds (68 percent) of faculty members in U.S. colleges and universities held contingent appointments in fall 2021, compared with about 47 percent in fall 1987,” according to Glenn Colby, author of the study.

Meanwhile, according to the study, the percentage of full-time non-tenure track professors has “almost tripled” from 5% in 1987 to 13% in 2021. The shift, according to the authors of the study, is related to efforts by universities to lower costs.

The union is also pushing for a telecommunications agreement, which would allow more employees to work virtually in an increasingly digital world.

“Thus far, our efforts to secure and expand telecommuting have made no tangible gains,” the union bulletin said.

“In some areas – IT in particular – the lack of adequate opportunities for telecommuting has made it difficult to recruit and retain qualified personnel,” the bulletin said. “More broadly, our professionals and librarians have proven that they can be productive while working remotely. They deserve greater flexibility and control over their work lives.”

The union hopes to reach an agreement on a new contract with the state by the end of May, according to the bulletin. “Unless we can do so before the end of May, we face a very difficult choice: either accept the deal that the State has offered or hold out for another year in the hopes of achieving more. The team has made our position clear at the table. Now, as UUP members, we need to make it clear to the State that these are demands worth fighting for.”


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