Emerson LA Faculty Reach Contract Agreement

By Sarah K. Lanius

When faculty members in the Emerson Los Angeles Part-Time Faculty Union (ELAF), an AAUP collective bargaining chapter, began negotiations for their second contract last June, they set a goal of achieving pay equity with their peers at the Emerson College Boston campus as well as improving health insurance, job security, and retirement benefits for their mostly part-time faculty. This February, the chapter reached an agreement on a new five-year contract that makes significant improvements in these areas.

The new contract brings the salary grid for the LA campus in line with that for part-time faculty members at Emerson College in Boston, who are also represented by an AAUP union. Faculty members at level one of the grid—more than half of the unit—would receive an 11 percent salary increase retroactive to September 2021. The agreement also maintains annual cost of living increases ranging between 2 and 4 percent, based on the local cost of living index for Los Angeles. The contract improves access to health care by lowering the eligibility requirements from forty-eight to twenty-four credits and adding a “plus one” plan that is significantly less expensive than the family plan for faculty members using insurance to cover themselves and one other person. The chapter was also seeking to ensure that the commitment of senior faculty, many of whom have been teaching at the college for more than a decade, was rewarded with longer-term contracts. While chapter members did not get everything they wanted on this front, the chapter did win two-year contracts for senior faculty—an improvement over the one-year contracts they currently receive. Finally, under the new agreement, starting in fall 2022, faculty members who have taught forty-eight or more credits will contribute 1.5 percent to a pretax retirement plan and the college will make a set contribution of 3 percent of the faculty member’s annual teaching pay. The chapter won these gains through strong member engagement, a compelling and clear campaign narrative, and a strategic approach to bargaining and, ultimately, mediation.