After successfully unionizing, bargaining sessions began on Oct. 17 between the adjuncts and officials of Mercy College, which will see a retroactive raise to $3,000 a course for all adjuncts, stated union representative, Katherine Flaherty.
Dating back to Jan. 2019, the adjuncts of Mercy College have been fighting for the right to unionize. After a successful campaign, the group began negotiations with Mercy in the Tarrytown offices this past month.
Despite much of the initial rallying points based on economic issues, the first set of topics that both groups negotiated were “non-economic,” said Flaherty.
Patrica Meravy, an English adjunct and prominent member of the adjuncts, clarified further on this.
“The initial bargaining sessions laid out mutual goals and issues to be discussed. Both the administration and the adjunct faculty appreciate the significance of the union and its benefits to the college overall and the student body specifically.”
In a presentation sent to The Impact on behalf of MercyFacultyForward, adjuncts explained why they’re fighting, including one psychology adjunct, Therisa Ubriaco, who stated that her livelihood was on the line.
“Academically speaking, as adjuncts, we do as much as full-timers (if not more) but are not perceived as doing so and therefore are not treated with due respect; and, as such, not adequately remunerated. I have felt this particular grievance on a very deep level; just making monthly bills, despite seeking other opportunities for generating income, while struggling to keep from being homeless and destitute, has created a portrait of ongoing stress and nagging uncertainty. The aggregate experience: my quality of life has been adversely affected and, for the most part, virtually nonexistent.”
On the aforementioned slideshow, the group summarized these into various points which ranged from “equitable compensation” to “a voice for adjunct faculty” for objectives that the union set to obtain.
Some details of these pointed included but were not limited to: fair salaries, health benefits, and better compensation. Along with this, the group also showcased the role of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who has been working with the adjuncts since the beginning of this process.
The SEIU represents nearly two million workers throughout North America. Meanwhile, adjuncts make up around 75 percent of the faculty at Mercy.
In a statement given to The Impact on behalf of the college, it clarifies the position on which they have taken given the current negotiations.
“Mercy is currently negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who now represent adjunct faculty members. Mercy is committed to negotiating in good faith to come up with a fair collective bargaining agreement for the college and the bargaining unit members.”
Following the initial October meeting, that two parties met again on Nov. 13 for a second meeting. During which, Mercy would return with counter-proposals.
The biggest of these being a memorandum of agreement that would see all adjuncts receive a retroactive pay raise which would bring them to $3,000 per course as of the Fall 2019 semester. Despite the announcement of this raise for adjuncts last year, some were still receiving payments under this rate, according to Flaherty.
“We’re excited about this win,” said an enthusiastic Flaherty in a phone interview. “It’s great to see how much change is happening in such a short amount of time.”
Another adjunct, Anthony Aggimenti, described that the process of unionization has served as a unifier amongst his peers.
“Being an adjunct is an isolating experience, so this union provides me with a sense of support and helps boost my morale. I think if you were to ask many of my colleagues, they would agree with my sentiment.”
With a third session set to take place in early December, Flaherty is encouraging all adjuncts to come out and show continued support for their cause.
While both groups are firm in their keeping the focus on the current negotiations, many adjuncts like Meravy have ensured that they will keep the goals behind the union’s formation.
“In the coming months, we hope the bargaining sessions will realize solid results for adjunct faculty and tutors, including — but not limited to — professional development opportunities, course assignments, and compensation commensurate with education, experience, years of service and cost of living in the Tri-state area.”