Landmark Union Votes Prompt University’s Sudden Commitment to Improving Faculty Working Conditions

On the heels of landmark faculty unionization victories at the International Academy and Roski, and facing a new union election in Dornsife, where administrators repeatedly broke federal labor laws to discourage faculty unionization, Provost Quick announced the approval of an Academic Senate resolution regarding faculty salaries.

The University’s sudden commitment to improving faculty working conditions shows the power we have when we stand up together.

For months, we’ve been unrelenting in our push to raise standards for ourselves and the students we teach. Earlier this year, faculty in Dornsife, Roski, and the International Academy took a brave step in the right direction by filing for union elections in their schools.

Our unprecedented on-campus organizing efforts changed the conversation around faculty working conditions at USC. Make no mistake, the administration’s newfound dedication to raising standards for NTT faculty is a direct result of our fight for a real seat at the table. Today more than ever, we must stay committed to securing a lasting voice that will determine our pay, benefits, and terms of our employment.

“The administration’s recent commitment to address our concerns is an unbridled attempt to stifle the power that we, as a group, actually possess. This is a unique opportunity for us to stand together as professionals in order to continue working in a collegial and respectful environment here at USC. That’s why I support our efforts to unionize.” 

Andrea Parra, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences

As we’ve seen, the University can make unilateral changes to our employment at any time, without our input. Absent a mechanism for real accountability, major decisions about our working conditions remain in the hands of a select few, and can be changed on a whim.

In just the last year, the University has dismantled our transportation subsidy and taken away the vision coverage provided in our health plans. Not only do these actions completely ignore the needs of our faculty, we weren’t even part of the decision making process.

But together in a union, our collective voice can drive substantial, long-term improvements that benefit everyone in our educational community. We can ensure the needs of faculty and students are a priority, not an afterthought.

For months, we have stood together to call for real improvements, and our power has forced the University to take notice. Now more than ever, it’s critical that we build on our victories and move forward in our fight to raise professional standards at USC.

We’re winning, and we’re not stopping. Click here to sign an authorization card and join us in building a strong faculty union at USC.

Nathaniel Heneghan


East Asian Languages and Cultures

Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences

NLRB: USC Broke the Law in Dornsife Faculty Unionization Vote

A National Labor Relations Board Hearing Officer has found the Provost Quick and University administrators broke the law in our recent union vote:

ObjectionNLRBProvist Quick’s all out union-busting campaign of illegal threats, misinformation, and a pay increase timed days before the vote were key factors in the NLRB’s decision to set aside previous union election results in Dornsife and conduct a new election.

For months, we have condemned the administration’s underhanded tactics, calling on the University to remain neutral throughout the unionization process so that we may cast our vote in an environment free from University intimidation. Now, we have a second chance to decide our future through a fair and democratic process that respects our voices.

The details of our union election will be determined by the National Labor Relations Board in the coming weeks.


Faculty Union Update

Together, we’re building a strong faculty union on campus, and our recent landslide victories in Roski and the International Academy are just the beginning. We’re writing to you today with exciting news and important updates.

Dornsife Faculty Challenge Election Results and Condemn Administration’s Anti-Union Tactics

In an effort to squash our growing unionization effort, administrators ramped up their anti-union campaign during the recent election. Desperate to silence faculty voices, the university threatened Dornsife faculty who voted in favor of unionization with the loss of representation in faculty governance, and repeatedly intimidated and pressured faculty into voting no through a coordinated campaign of emails and on-campus meetings with USC leadership.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, faculty immediately filed an election objection with the National Labor Relations Board, calling on the Board to re-run the election in a fair and neutral environment, free from University pressure or influence.

After reviewing statements made by Provost Quick, the NLRB found sufficient cause to order a hearing to determine whether USC violated labor law, a finding which would result in a new election. This process is ongoing, and we will keep you updated.

After Landslide Victories in the Roski School and International Academy, Faculty Prepare to Bargain Their First Contract

Even after landslide victories in the Roski School and International Academy, where faculty voted overwhelmingly to join SEIU 721, the University has continued its anti-union campaign in earnest. Instead of respecting our decision to come together for a strong, collective voice for ourselves and our students, the University has refused to recognize the Roski vote and has promised to seek a new ruling from the NLRB classifying all faculty in the Roski School as managers.

To be clear: this attempt at mischaracterizing Roski faculty is merely a frivolous appeal meant to deny faculty a real voice on campus through unionization.

Last week, faculty from the International Academy and the Roski School met to begin discussing next steps in the bargaining process. In the coming weeks, all faculty in Roski and the International Academy will receive bargaining surveys. These surveys will help determine our priorities as we begin to negotiate our new, strong contract with the University.

We remain committed to building a vibrant faculty union in all schools on campus, and hope you will join as we fight to raise standards for ourselves and the students we teach.

Thank you,

Kaz Shida, International Academy
Alexis Disselkoen, Roski School of Art and Design
Rafael Levi, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences

California State Legislators Assert the Right of USC Faculty to Engage in Democratic, Transparent Union Election Process

In an unprecedented move, the California State Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, and the California Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, jointly drafted a set of official correspondence concerning the faculty union election election beginning January 13, 2016, at the University of Southern California.

Signed by Tony Mendoza and Roger Hernandez, Chairs of the Senate and Assembly Committees respectively, the letter to C.L. Max Nikias, President of the University of Southern California, asserts the right of USC faculty to engage in a democratic process for deciding their future, free pressure or intimidation from the University.

“Workers attempting to organize, including adjunct faculty, have sometimes been confronted with hostility and retaliation, or received inaccurate information and deceptive advice… We request that USC remain vigilant in protecting the right of adjunct faculty to decide whether to organize. We look forward to a fair and transparent union election process, wholly free from outside interference,” they conveyed to President Nikias.

In their letter to faculty, the Chairs reference a hearing convened by the US Congress in November 2013 that documented the questionable working conditions faced by non-tenure track faculty at colleges and universities nationwide. The Chairs stress that faculty have the right to employ collective bargaining to address these concerns, and to determine their future through a transparent process that respects faculty voices.

“As it is your statutory right to engage in collective bargaining, we support your effort to make this decision in an environment free from employer intimidation and coercion. Both of our committees will be monitoring the upcoming election to ensure that you are able to make this decision in a fair and dignified manner that respects your wishes,” Mendoza and Hernandez wrote.

View the full letters below:






We Have Filed for a Union Election!

Faculty in the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, Roski School of Art and Design, and the International Academy Have Filed for a Union Election!

WeFiledMontage copy

This exciting milestone is just the beginning.


I write to you today with exciting news. Yesterday, faculty from Dornsife, Roski, and the International Academy filed for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. This action is an important milestone in our organizing efforts on campus, and my colleagues and I in the International Academy are thrilled to be taking this next step with our colleagues. This action is just the beginning, and together, we will continue to build a strong faculty union in every school on campus.

USC Faculty in the Press

Together, we’re organizing to raise professional standards and put student tuition funds back where they belong: the classroom. Our fight for education justice has garnered attention from outlets local and national, just take a look:

Noura Wedell, faculty in the Roski School of Art and Design, talks to The Guardian about the real-life consequences of contingent employment for faculty.

KPCC talks to Kate Levin and Alexis Disselkoen about why building a faculty union at USC is so important.

The Los Angeles Times reports on our filing and upcoming union election.

What’s Next?

Sign an Authorization Card: This showing of support is critical to building our faculty union. If you haven’t already, please email us at and we can get one to you.

Learn About the Union Election Process: Have questions about next steps in growing our union? Click here to check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Today we celebrate an exciting step in our fight for education justice at USC. We will be in touch soon with more important updates.


Ixchell Reyes

International Academy

“Creating a strong faculty union, would give us a more positive voice in the decisions that affect both teachers and our students. I am inspired by the action taken today by faculty in Dornsife, Roski, and the International Academy, and look forward to joining them as they work for fair wages and secure employment.” 

Andrew Garver, Thornton School of Music

“This action is an important milestone in our unionization effort here at USC. I’m excited for my colleagues in Roski, Dornsife, and the International Academy, and look forward to even more victories in the coming months.”

Kimberly Tso, Price School of Public Policy

“I’m thrilled to see my colleagues in the International Academy, Roski, and Dornsife filing to form their union. NTT faculty at USC deserve to have a real voice on campus, and this is just the beginning. My colleagues and I in the USC School of Dramatic Arts look forward to joining these efforts in the future.”

Andrew Borba, School of Dramatic Arts


Back to School, Back in Action

Dear colleagues,

My name is Kim Tso, and I’m an adjunct instructor in the Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Fall semester is in full swing, and we’re working harder than ever to build a strong faculty union at USC. I’m writing to you today with exciting news and important updates:

USC Faculty Survey
We, contingent, non tenure-track faculty, teach the majority of classes at USC. Every day we go the extra mile, often putting in long hours to prepare classes or mentor students. Despite our dedication, many of us are forced to reapply for our jobs at the end of each semester or academic year, often for courses we have taught many times already. As faculty, we are committed to USC and feel proud to work at this institution. But we think it is time for USC to commit to us.

Together, we can make our voices heard when it comes to academic priorities and working conditions. Please take a minute to fill out our survey here.

Back to School, Back in Action
We’re back to school, and students and faculty have been on campus every week talking to colleagues and students about faculty working conditions and the corporatization of higher education at USC. Students have been circulating a petition in support of our organizing efforts, and have been taking action to show support for faculty:

IMG_0048IMG_0042 (1)IMG_0053IMG_4410

We’ll continue our on-campus action in the coming weeks. To get involved please email organizer Liz Espinoza at

Department of Labor Considering Overtime Rules for Faculty
According to an SEIU report, faculty all over the country are working overtime without any compensation for their extra labor. That’s because teachers, including faculty, are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act. It means that faculty don’t have the protection of minimum salary requirements and overtime rules. Having to worry about finances and uncertain futures means distracted professors and ultimately, students lose out on a quality education.

Don’t wait, send your letter right now to the Department of Labor and urge it to ensure that contingent faculty enjoy the protections of the FLSA.

We’re fired up, and we’re ready to keep fighting for a strong union for faculty. Here’s what you can do now to make our union a reality:

Have you signed an authorization card? If you support forming a union with us here at USC, please sign a union authorization card this week. Please contact Liz Espinoza at for more information.

Have you signed our Dear Colleagues letter? This public show of support is crucial to building a union here at USC. We can demand real improvements for ourselves, and our students, but only if we step up together. If you haven’t already, please add your name here.

As we enter our fall semester, I’m looking forward to new victories and new challenges. More than ever, I’m convinced we can make real improvements for faculty and the students we teach.


In The News

NLRB Reports USC Violated Federal Laws

Daily Trojan April 8, 2016

Two Union Wins for Non-Tenure-Track Instructors

Inside Higher Ed April 7, 2016

Non-Tenure-Track Faculty at Two USC Schools Approve Plan to Unionize

Los Angeles Times February 2, 2016

As USC Faculty Awaits Results of a Union Vote, Some Hope for ‘a Bigger Voice’

Los Angeles Times February 1, 2016

We Have Filed for a Union Election!

USC Faculty December 9, 2015

Unionization for ‘Struggling’ Majority of USC Teachers?

My News LA November 25, 2015

USC Faculty Moves Ahead with Union Election Plan, Despite Warning of Increased Hostility

Los Angeles Times November 24, 2015

USC’s Non-Tenure Track Professors Take First Step to Unionizing

KPCC November 24, 2015

Teaching While Poor: Adjunct Professors and the Fight for Fair Wages

The Nation October 26, 2015

The Corporatization of Higher Education: With A System That Caters to the 1%, Students and Faculty Get Screwed

Salon October 10, 2015

The Plight of the Adjunct Professor

Georgia Political Review October 7, 2015

Higher Education’s Reliance on Adjuncts Has Consequences

Tampa Bay Times September 25, 2015

USC Sees Increase in Administrative Staff

The Daily Trojan September 23, 2015

Why is College So Expensive if Professors are Paid So Little?

The Nation September 21, 2015

There is No Excuse for How Universities Treat Adjuncts

The Atlantic September 15, 2015

USC Administration Shuts Down Art Students’ Blog

Hyperallergic September 14, 2015

Colleges Flush With Cash Saddle Poorest Students With Debt

Long Island Press September 13, 2015

USC’s Once-Heralded MFA Program Opens With Only One Student

LA Weekly September 1, 2015

Adjuncts Struggle to Balance Dreams of Teaching with Low Wages

Seattle Magazine September 2015

Stop Chiseling the Adjuncts

Washington Monthly September 2015

Like Fast Food Workers, Adjunct Professors Deserve Higher Pay 

Flagpole August 12, 2015

Whittier Adjuncts Tout Gains in First Union Contract 

Inside Higher Ed August 3, 2015

Contingent Faculty Aren’t Working in the Minors 

Inside Higher Ed July 9, 2015

I am an adjunct professor who teaches five classes. I earn less than a pet-sitter.

The Guardian June 22, 2015

USC7 Respond to Roski School Dean as Faculty Weigh In

Hyperallergic May 29, 2015

The Cost of an Adjunct

The Atlantic May 26, 2015

Adjunct Faculty Seek to Unionize

Daily Trojan April 15, 2015

National Walkout: Adjunct Professors Protest Low Pay, Lack of Job Security

International Business Times February 25, 2015

Your Adjunct Professors Are Taking a Day to Fight for Their Rights

Good Magazine February 25, 2015

Walking Out, Teaching In, and Puppeteering: A Glimpse at National Adjunct Walkout Day

Chronicle of Higher Education, Vitae February 25, 2015

Happy National Adjunct Walkout Day

Gawker February 25, 2015

Doing Much of the Teaching But Struggling Financially, Adjunct Faculty Joins Unions

The Kansas City Star February 24, 2015

California Colleges See Surge in Efforts to Unionize Adjunct Faculty

Los Angeles Times January 3, 2015

The Impact of Unionization on University Performance

Journal of Collective Bargaining in the Academy December 2014

A Model Emerges

Inside Higher Ed October 28, 2014

The Adjunct Crisis Is Everyone’s Problem

Chronicle of Higher Education, Vitae October 17, 2014

The Adjunct Revolt: How Poor Professors Are Fighting Back

The Atlantic April 28, 2014

Universities Benefit from Their Faculties’ Unionization, Study Finds

Chronicle of Higher Education April 5, 2013

Union Raises for Adjuncts

Inside Higher Ed July 26, 2013

Roski Faculty, Students Call on USC to Prioritize Quality Education Over Profits

On Friday May 15, 2015, the first-year MFA class at USC’s Roski School of Art and Design dropped out in direct protest of the University’s refusal to deliver the funding and curricular promises made to these students.

The students’ decision to take this important action did not come as a surprise. For years, the University has been following a nationwide trend, shifting resources and focus away from the execution of our core educational mission and towards bloated administrative salaries, lavish infrastructure projects, and a business model of education.

We believe the University should honor its commitments to its students.

In their public statement, the first-year MFA class references the low pay and instability faced by non-tenure track faculty as a key example of USC’s misplaced priorities, and we couldn’t agree more. With a reported $3.8 billion in endowment, and $8.8 billion in total assets, the institution has the resources and capacity to provide stable, decently-paid jobs to faculty. Unfortunately, over 75% of faculty at USC work in contingent, part-time positions, which offer low pay and no job security. These are the jobs awaiting qualified scholars and practitioners, as well as debt-laden graduates.

For months, we have been speaking out about the personal struggles that many of us face, not knowing if we will have jobs from one semester to the next. And all too often, we have no voice in the decisions that affect our students and our programs. This instability and lack of transparency affects not only faculty, but our entire educational community.

To be clear, the decision by the first-year MFA class to drop out of school represents a failure by USC to retain and to engage productively with the students it recruited, and thus to meet its pedagogical mission. The University’s glaring focus on profits over quality education shows an administration disconnected from its own mission, as well as the needs and realities of its students and faculty.

We share very serious concerns regarding the University’s efforts to drive down the cost of instruction at the expense of providing quality education to our students in their fields of study, and good jobs to faculty.

United, we share a vision for the future of higher education. We are part of a nationwide movement organizing for good jobs for faculty and quality education for students. Together, we will continue the fight, and hold large institutions like USC accountable. We call on our colleagues across the country to join us as we rise to protect the stability of our students’ education.


Current and Former Faculty, USC Roski School of Art and Design:

Emilie Halpern

Jean Robison

John Tain

Melanie Nakaue

Molly Corey

Nancy Lupo

Noura Wedell

Rachel Roske

Sarah Lehrer-Graiwer

A.L. Steiner


First-year MFA class, USC Roski School of Art and Design:

Julie Beaufils

Sid Duenas

George Egerton-­Warburton

Edie Fake

Lauren Davis Fisher

Lee Relvas

Ellen Schafer

April 15th: Thousands March to USC to Demand Respect for Contingent Faculty

In case we haven’t already met, my name is Alexis Disselkoen, and I teach in the Critical Studies program at the Roski School of Art and Design.

I’d first like to report back about the amazing rally and march that I and several colleagues took part in this past Wednesday, 4/15. We all met up at the McDonald’s just northeast of campus to join a massive Fight for $15 rally already underway. From there the faculty marched across campus to Tommy the Trojan, flanked by a horde of loud and amazing USC students, and with hundreds of fast-food, childcare and other workers backing us up, all chanting: “Fight On for Faculty! Fight On to Victory!”

Faculty and students then broke off to visit the Provost’s Office, where we hand-delivered the Dear Colleagues letter that many of you have already signed, along with a student petition in support of our faculty unionizing efforts! Both petitions call upon the administration to cease their anti-union attacks, and to cease spending any student tuition dollars opposing our efforts to form a union.

The event was extremely emotional and energizing, and demonstrated the power that we faculty have when we join together, most especially with our students and community at our side. You can find a video recap of the day here:


I left the rally this Wednesday with a sense that success in forming our union at USC is only a matter of time, but also with the realization of how much work it’s taken us over the semester to get ourselves to this point. There is still some more work to be done, and so if everyone continues to reach out to our colleagues across campus, we will be able to start making some real improvements at USC for ourselves, and most of all for our students.

Please do be in touch if you have any questions or ideas.



April 15th: Join the Largest Ever Nationwide Day of Action to Fight Income Inequality!

Wednesday, April 15th, join thousands of workers from across Los Angeles as we take part in the largest ever nationwide day of action to fight income inequality. It’s time we had an economy that benefits everyone, not just those at the top. More than 60,000 people across the country will be hitting the streets to call on colleges and corporations to act.

Join us as we march through campus! Here are the details:

Wednesday, April 15th
11:00 AM: Rally at W 28th St & S Figueroa
12:00 PM: Begin marching to USC Campus
12:30 PM: Rally at Tommy the Trojan