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:

Letter1

 

 

 

Letter2

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.

Colleagues,

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 FacultyForwardUSC@gmail.com 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.

Best,

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 Liz.Espinoza@seiu721.org

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 Liz.Espinoza@seiu721.org 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.

-Kim

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.

Signed,

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.

Sincerely,

Alexis

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

The Fight For $15 and Good Jobs for Faculty: A Panel Discussion

Join us for a panel discussion on how we can unite on a national day of action on April 15.

Monday, March 30, 6 PM – 8 PM
Office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas
Exposition Park Administrative Office – East
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles 90037

Adjunct college faculty, fast food workers, airport workers and other underpaid working people are preparing to take action as part of the “Fight For $15” national day of action on April 15. Through the national Faculty Forward campaign, adjunct and part-time faculty are advocating for higher pay per course, and forcing a national conversation about how colleges should refocus their resources back to instruction instead of administration.

In advance of that date, community allies and members of SEIU will host a diverse panel of working people, along with SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry, UCLA Labor Center Director Kent Wong, and USC faculty member Noura Wedell. Join us!

Thousands Take Action on National Adjunct Walkout Day

Colleagues,

My name is A.L. Steiner, and I’m a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Roski School of Art and Design at USC. Together, we’ve begun taking steps to build our union here at USC, and I’m writing to you today with important updates.

Last week, we introduced a letter outlining our vision for a better USC, and calling on the University to commit to a fair and transparent process that allows for us to organize without interference. If you haven’t had a chance to sign on yet, you can view and sign the letter here: http://bit.ly/uscsupportletter

And last Wednesday, non-tenure track faculty and students from across the country participated in National Adjunct Walkout Day. This historic event was the first of its kind, with thousands taking action to shine a light on the low pay, lack of job security, and difficult working conditions many of us face every day. As you’ll see below, these actions garnered a great deal of media attention:

Gawker – Happy National Adjunct Walkout Day
Chronicle of Higher Education, Vitae – Walking Out, Teaching In, and Puppeteering: A Glimpse at National Adjunct Walkout Day
International Business Times – National Walkout: Adjunct Professors Protest Low Pay, Lack Of Job Security
GOOD Magazine – Your Adjunct Professors Are Taking a Day to Fight for Their Rights

 

You can find even more photos and stories from across the country on the National Adjunct Walkout Day Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Adjunct-Walkout-Day/340019999501000

By organizing to raise professional standards at USC, we’re joining a nationwide movement of faculty fighting for fair wages, better benefits and a real voice at the institutions where we teach.

Sincerely,

A.L. Steiner
Visiting Assistant Professor
Roski School of Art and Design
University of Southern California