Editorial: Staff unions need support from administration
University should listen to demands and take steps to address them
American University adjunct faculty, graduate students and staff told the University that “change can’t wait” and asked it to “accept this challenge” in regards to COVID-19 safety concerns and unfair wages on Oct. 5.
The Eagle Editorial Board finds the demands of the protesters to be reasonable and urges the University to work with protesters. AU staff should not have to ask just to get by.
The Eagle is made up mostly of undergraduate students, but the Editorial Board recognizes that we are part of a larger AU community — a community that has adjunct faculty, staff, graduate students and more. We must support the protesters in their demands for campus to be a safer environment, especially during a pandemic, and for the University to be an employer that supports its workers.
Unionization is a long and frustrating process. It takes an average of 409 days from certification of a union representative election by the National Labor Relations Board to a first negotiated contract, according to Bloomberg Law. Previous attempts of campus organizations to unionize have had difficulty achieving success due to a variety of factors, including the large responsibilities on workers to organize and the University's apparent aloof attitude or unwillingness to cooperate. The work of fighting for workers falls on people that already have full time jobs, they are fighting this uphill battle on their own time. When graduate students started the unionization process in September 2016, it took months of discussion and work till February 2017 when they finally filed to unionize. For adjunct faculty, Eagle reporting from 2012 and 2013 tracks the bureaucratic and taxing process of working towards their goals.
In Eagle reporting on the protest, adjunct professor Zein El-Amine made the point that “there’s no difference in the quality of education that we’re providing.” According to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500, even a full-time course load would not be enough to support an adjunct professor. The quality of education students receive from adjunct faculty is no different than full-time faculty. It is unacceptable that adjunct faculty wages are so low that 98 percent of them cannot support themselves and one child even with a full-time course load, according to SEIU’s reported numbers. Through its inaction, the University is telling adjunct professors that their time and effort is not as valuable. This inaction is impacting people’s ability to support themselves and dependents.
The unwillingness of the University to meet these demands shows a fundamental misunderstanding of AU’s day-to-day functions: the people who protested are the people who make this University run. Without adjunct faculty, graduate students and other staff doing their job, there would be no AU experience.They deserve compensation that reflects that hard work or, at the very least, constitutes livable wages.