Philly’s Universities Face Union Campaign

Two unions aim to organize all 15,000 adjunct faculty members in the city.

Inside Higher Ed reports that two unions—Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of Teachers—have embarked on separate efforts to unionize the city’s 15,000 adjunct university teachers in Philadelphia.

AFT’s United Academics, launched in November, is currently a professional organization offering an undisclosed number of adjuncts professional development and advocacy. Members include graduate employees and full-time and part-time adjuncts teaching at institutions such as: Temple University; Moore College of Art and Design; the University of Pennsylvania; Bryn Mawr College, Swarthmore College; Community College of Philadelphia; Villanova University; and St. Joseph’s University.

But the body is angling to become a city-wide bargaining unit under a common contract onto which individual campuses could sign. The idea is that by organizing the city’s estimated 15,000 adjuncts into a single unit, the union could drive up compensation and make for better working conditions across the city.

AFT—which represents full-time faculty at Community College of Philadelphia, Moore College, and Temple—is also targeting individual campuses in the city for unionization. Meanwhile, SEIU is also planning to target Philadelphia with its Adjunct Action campaign:

Christopher Honey, a spokesman for SEIU in Washington, said he hadn’t heard about AFT’s Philadelphia campaign, but wasn’t surprised that other unions were using the metro approach.

“It’s good strategy that recognizes the reality that adjunct faculty don’t just teach at one institution,” he said, adding it was too soon to tell how SEIU or AFT might work with or alongside one another in Philadelphia.

Whether the two unions will focus on collaboration or competition remains to be seen.