Loyola and the College of Arts and Sciences non-tenure track faculty union — Loyola Faculty Forward — are at the bargaining table this month to negotiate terms for a new contract, with the current one set to expire this summer.
With four of the eight meetings finished at the time of publication, the two groups have already come to eight tentative agreements — a marked change from the last collective bargaining session that only came after two years of negotiations, demonstrations and a one-day strike.
The union — which represents over 300 part and full-time faculty from the university’s College of Arts and Sciences — is hoping to negotiate for more pay, job security and pathways to promotion among other things.
Loyola Faculty Forward falls under Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 branch, which represents over 29,000 workers in Illinois and Northwest Indiana, according to SEIU’s website.
Access to funding for professional development was expanded to cover more costs, more members and more chances for use, under a March 10 tentative agreement.
The professional development fund is used to reimburse eligible faculty members for items that “contribute to the improvement of the Unionized Faculty member’s teaching,” — such as conferences, workshops and travel expenses, according to the current contract.
All full and part-time unionized faculty who have done two or more semesters of teaching would have access to the fund under the tentative agreement.
The current contract limits the maximum reimbursement per-member to $600. Under the tentative agreement, members could access the fund again if more than $10,000 is left in the fund by March 1 in a given school year.
Technology was also added to the list of eligible expenses — a welcome move for faculty who’ve had to teach online courses for more than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered in-person classes.
While most technology reimbursements weren’t denied last year, the gray-area in the current contract meant some faculty who upgraded their tech to better teach were kept waiting months for reimbursement, according to Elise Martel — a Loyola sociology lecturer and member of the union bargaining team.
Earlier tentative class assignments for some part-time faculty and earlier notice of non-renewal, when a teacher finds out their contract won’t be renewed, for some full-time faculty — among other changes — were included in some of the other tentative agreements.
The first three meetings featured only “non-economic issues” — not related to wages, benefits or other similar issues — but economic issues are on the table at the next meeting April 1.
The Phoenix spoke to representatives from both the school and the union who said non-economic negotiations were going well but acknowledged it was also early in the game.
Coming To The Table — Part-Time Faculty
To prepare for the negotiations, the union sent out a survey last summer to gauge what members wanted in the new contract.
Members of the union bargaining committee said they’re using a combination of survey data and input gathered at membership meetings to shape their negotiations — but any union member is encouraged to attend the sessions and “be seen and heard” by school administration, said Matthew Williams, a Loyola sociology lecturer and member of the bargaining committee.
Alyson Paige Warren, an adjunct English instructor who’s also co-chair of the part-time faculty for the union, said some of the issues facing adjuncts — part-time faculty on semester, one or two-year contracts — are the same as last time: pay, benefits and job security.
Job security ranked first on the union survey of part-time faculty. The position of “adjunct instructor” — part-time on a two-year contract — was one of the “biggest wins” for job security when the current contract was approved, but more needs to be done, Warren said.
“It’s not temporary if it’s been going on for years,” said Warren, who’s been teaching part-time at Loyola since 2008. “Only knowing you have a job for two years is not how people in a career function… without [job security] everything else is affected.”
Increased pay and more pathways to promotion were the second and third — respectively — ranked needs for the new contract.
Most respondents hadn’t even heard of the “adjunct instructor” position, and more than 60 percent were unsure if adjuncts had a clear pathway to full-time work, according to the survey.
“I think adjuncts should be on track for full-time work,” one survey respondent wrote. “It should be a stepping-stone position, not cheap labor.”
Adjuncts are restricted from teaching more than two classes a semester, meaning they don’t have access to healthcare — an issue that’s become especially problematic in light of the pandemic, Warren said.
Adjuncts often teach at other schools in addition to Loyola to help make ends meet, leading to a dysfunctional work-life balance and poor teaching environment, Warren said.
Coming to the Table — Full-Time Faculty
Full-time non-tenure track faculty are set apart from their part-time counterparts with some job-security, salary pay and benefits.
But they’re also differentiated from tenure-track faculty in that — besides lacking tenure — their teaching loads are much larger, with teaching loads ranking first on the survey of priorities for the new contract.
Full-time faculty also expressed frustration with advancement to tenure-track positions — caught between the need to develop professionally, while not having any time to do so.
“It’s a Catch-22: I teach so much I don’t have time for my research and to publish,” one survey respondent said. “Without it, what chance do I have for going [tenure-track]?”
The fight for unpaid research leave is high on the full-time priority list, Williams said.
The definition of a “class” is also expected to come up in negotiations — “pandemic pedagogy” has led to raising class caps and putting more people into Zoom calls, Martel said.
A course of 20 students is considered one class, but a course of 150 students only gets counted as two classes — an issue the union hopes to resolve in negotiations, Martel said.
While these issues might seem to be limited to the faculty, Williams said students should start taking an active part in what’s going on with their teachers.
“One thing people should keep in mind is our working conditions are our teaching conditions and the students’ learning conditions,” Williams said.
Williams said the union “doesn’t want to go back to the difficult negotiations of the first contract,” but cautioned it’s still too soon to tell.
“Things are going well so far, but we’ve not gotten to what’ll be the most difficult issues,” Williams said.