Service Employees International Union Local 1 employees have recently been approaching non-tenure-track faculty members seeking signatures for authorization cards. By signing, faculty members show their support for unionization at Marquette. The university sent an email to its faculty members March 28, urging them to consider not engaging with SEIU.
However, allowing faculty to unionize provides them with protections that are not provided by the university. While the acting provost Kimo Ah Yun agreed to remain neutral in the matter at the rally, Marquette should take a step further. Marquette should accept unionization at the university in order to protect its non-tenure-track faculty members.
This union would allow the non-tenure-track faculty to demand adequate compensation and benefits as a unified collective, rather than as individuals who can be replaced by less vocal workers willing to accept the less-than-ideal current working conditions. Many times, workers in these positions are financially vulnerable and are hesitant to speak out in fear of jeopardizing their positions.
Currently, many adjunct professors at Marquette make extremely low wages. In addition, graduate student employees do not receive health insurance. Full-time faculty are given health, dental and vision insurance. If Marquette posits itself as an example of Catholic values and morality, this blatant mistreatment of some of the university’s most vulnerable employees is a situation that cannot continue. This ongoing push from non-tenure-track faculty to unionize is a clear path to rectify this on-campus injustice.
Non-tenure-track faculty make about $3,000 per course or $13,000 per year, according to information provided by non-tenure-track faculty member Samuel Harshner. One of the main issues with this situation is the lack of job security. Because their salaries have not kept up with inflation, it makes it hard for these individuals to plan their finances from year to year. Economic stability is a guarantee that the university can and should provide to all those it employs. A strong union would empower the staff at Marquette to not only self-moderate, but to use their collective strength to guarantee fair compensation and benefits for non-tenure-track faculty.
Because the compensation for non-tenure-track faculty is lower than their tenured counterparts, they are sometimes forced to work additional jobs in order to make ends meet. This not only adds to their already busy schedules, but could also impact the quality of education they can provide to students. As a prestigious academic institution, Marquette must treat the labor of its employees with the proper degree of respect it deserves. Without the ability to organize and collectively bargain as a strong union, the non-tenure-track faculty will continue to be vulnerable.
Marquette has bragged about its world-class faculty. If it believes this is the caliber of the faculty on campus, then it needs to compensate them accordingly. In order to maintain excellent faculty at the university for years to come, Marquette needs to make sure all its faculty feel they have job security. To stand idly while the process of unionization convenes sends a clear message to prospective hires — that Marquette reserves the right to exploit its faculty members’ hard work and time.
Marquette supporting unionization at the university would show its care and concern for all faculty, not just those with tenure. Any financial or losses Marquette would endure from unionization are outweighed by the benefits it would provide adjunct faculty and graduate students on campus. Beyond the dollars and cents of the issue, there is a greater moral imperative behind unionization.
As a community of men and women with and for others, a strong union exists solely to protect and reward one of our university’s most valuable resources — our hard-working educators. Marquette should stand with them.