Hot Union Summer Wins

By Monica Owens

Summer 2023 was a season of wins by AAUP-AFT chapters at private institutions in New York. Faculty members at Adelphi University on Long Island, St. John’s University in Queens, and Utica University in upstate New York held ground and made gains on compensation, health care and other benefits, and shared governance.

At Adelphi, the faculty union won the highest raises in recent memory, distributed in a way that particularly helps the people who make the least, as well as increases to salary floors and new benefits for all faculty members. Under the contract, full-time tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track faculty members earn annual 3 percent salary increases in addition to annual lump-sum increases to their base salaries, while adjunct faculty members receive annual increases ranging from 3 to 4.25 percent over the course of the five-year contract. Full-time non-tenure-track faculty members gained a new pathway for conversion to tenure-track appointments; access to a new professional development benefit, a one-semester sabbatical at full pay; and the right to participate in institutional governance, including in senate leadership. Additionally, adjunct faculty members now have access to a new short-term disability benefit that provides 50 percent of weekly wages up to $600 for a maximum of thirteen weeks in addition to existing sick-leave benefits. Other wins include substantial job security protections against retrenchment, guaranteed ratios of full-time faculty members to students, and a requirement that at least 80 percent of full-time faculty lines be tenured or tenure track.

In August, faculty members at St. John’s University settled a three-year contract with gains on compensation and health care after historic inflation and two years without raises. Full-time tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track faculty members won a 3.25 percent increase in year one, equal to a nearly $4,000 increase in the median faculty salary—an amount about 45 percent above the employer’s initial offer. They will earn a 3 percent increase in year two and a 2.25 percent increase in year three. Adjunct faculty members will earn a 5 percent increase to base pay in year one and an average $750 increase to base pay annually for each three-credit course; a contract extension on the adjunct compensation article guarantees annual pay increases until 2026. By that time, pay for adjunct faculty members will have risen by approximately 85 percent, bringing their compensation up to the level of comparable institutions in New York City. (Compare this gain with the 2.25 percent pay increase for adjuncts proposed by the administration, which prior to the agreement paid adjunct faculty members less than any other New York City–area university.) On health care, the faculty won a permanent reimbursement fund of $400,000, inflation adjustments that will reduce or freeze annual premium costs, and an additional $213,000 of average annual funding for three years for health insurance premium reimbursements. Under the contract, most full-time faculty members will pay around 15 percent of the premium (down from 20 percent), and annual premium increases will not be passed on to the faculty.

Finally, in September, Utica faculty members reached a tentative agreement with the administration after many months of negotiating and working without a contract for 218 days. The agreement focuses on increasing compensation and recouping lost pay and on improving retention and job security. Faculty members won salary increases and lump-sum payments over the three-year contract, a new minimum salary framework, and back pay for those who took pay cuts in 2020–21. The contract also includes increases to professional development funding, overload pay, and faculty research funds; prevents cuts to health-care or retirement benefits; provides stronger protections against retrenchment; and ensures that faculty members on nine-month appointments work only during the academic year.