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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

USC Professors Protest For Unionization

Non-tenure track professors at USC protested to unionize in order to get higher wages and better job security. 

Many USC professors joined protesters at "Fight for 15," but they had a different agenda: they were protesting for non-tenure-track--which includes adjunct faculty and clinical faculty--professors to unionize at USC.

Standing at the front line of the massive protest, armed with signs and chants, they marched alongside the thousands of other protesters pushing for higher minimum wage.

USC faculty members donned bright orange shirts with the logo "Faculty Forward" displayed across the front. It's the name of the union, which is a division of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) some USC professors want to bring to the university, hoping they'll receive higher wages, better health care options and more job security.

"Many of us have decided to support a union for non-tenure-track and adjunct faculty issues, particularly regarding salary and promotion processes that aren't quite transparent," said Andrea Parra, an associate professor in USC's Spanish Department. "Basically we would like to have a more uniform treatment of non-tenure-track, part time and adjunct faculty."

As professors marched into campus, they prepared themselves to meet face-to-face with Interim Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Michael Quick. Striding into his office, with USC students chanting and cheering behind them, three representatives from the movement dropped off their official petition for unionization at USC.

Provost Quick was not in his office at the time. He has not officially responded to the petition yet.

USC administration has responded in the past to the possibility of a professors' union coming to USC. USC Provost Quick said the following in a letter sent to faculty in February:

"In my view, the question is not whether one is philosophically 'for' or 'against' unions. Nor is the question whether the labor movement has historically been a force for good in this country—I personally think it has been good. Rather, the issue is whether a union is good for faculty at a particular university—our University of Southern California. My opinion is that it is not.”

Many educators at universities across the country work as non-tenure-track faculty members, often teaching multiple classes at multiple universities to make ends meet.

Most universities also require these faculty members to teach at least two classes in order to have health insurance, like at USC. Many say it is near impossible to have the chance to teach more than one class at the same university.

Adjunct faculty members and non-tenure-track professors are often contracted with a university on a semester-per-semester basis, often leading to a feeling of low job security in this community of educators. 


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