Mercy College adjuncts prepared to strike if contract demands are not met by semester’s end

Mercy College-seal-banner
A tentative agreement reached between Mercy College and the local union representing its adjunct faculty at the school’s Bronx, Manhattan and Dobbs Ferry campuses will put an end to a planned Monday strike.
Photo courtesy Mercy College

Mercy College adjunct staff are prepared to strike if college administrators do not accommodate calls for an immediate increase of minimum adjunct pay to $4,700 per course and longer-term appointments during the semester, as many adjuncts say they are not guaranteed a job beyond one semester.

The union voted overwhelmingly to strike last week and are giving Mercy College — which has campuses in Dobbs Ferry, the Bronx and midtown Manhattan — until semester’s end, on April 23, to meet their demands. A member affiliated with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) told the Bronx Times a formal strike could happen as soon as May 2, if the private university doesn’t meet the union’s contract demands.

“We intend to go forward with a strike vote because the administration has given little to no movement over 29 bargaining sessions, particularly with regards to wages and job security,” said Katherine Flaherty, a Mercy College adjunct professor in the Seminars program. “These issues are essential because our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.”

Members representing a union of 700 adjunct faculty and lecturers told the Times that negotiations had taken over two years without, in their eyes, significant progress in wage and contract negotiations, including refusal to agree to any proposals that would provide for a significant increase in adjunct pay or that would provide real job security, through longer-term appointments.

Additionally, adjuncts said that Mercy administrators have also refused to agree to any proposals that establish a grievance process that includes binding arbitration through a neutral, third party.

Mercy College administrators told the Bronx Times in a statement that both parties met Monday to exchange counter proposals and jointly expressed their desire to avoid a strike or any type of disruption to the spring term.

“The College and the (union) have scheduled a series of meetings later this month where they will meet consecutively for three days and are cautiously optimistic that they will reach a contract,” an officials from Mercy College said.

Mercy College relies on adjunct faculty and lecturers to teach its predominantly working class students, who make up approximately 70% of Mercy College’s instructional faculty. However, adjunct faculty wages lag significantly behind other regional colleges.

Most adjunct faculty make between $3,000 and $3,300 per three-credit course, and are hired on a semester-by-semester basis, with no guarantee of reappointment or renewal, whereas non-adjunct, full-time staff earn about $4,000 per three-credit course.

“As an adjunct faculty member in the nursing department I am ready to strike for a fair contract,” said Crisanta Melicio, a Mercy Faculty Forward/SEIU bargaining committee member. “Two and a half years is too long to go without a fair pay increase and job security. The impact adjunct contingency has on our students is significant — they deserve a stable workforce of teachers who can assist them through the long haul at Mercy.”

Adjuncts allege that despite a 4-to-1 vote for unionization in the summer of 2019, Mercy College President Tim Hall and college administrators had engaged in anti-union busting efforts. Unionization efforts across city and industry have ramped up in recent weeks with union wins for Staten Island Amazon employees and Fordham grad students.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes

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