Frequently Asked Questions regarding SEIU-AU
Question: For how long has there been a collective bargaining agreement between SEIU and American University?
Answer: SEIU and AU reached their first collective bargaining agreement this spring. The agreement runs from June 1, 2013 through August 31, 2015 (2 years and 3 months).
Question: Which AU faculty members are covered by the agreement?
Answer: The agreement covers “adjunct faculty” who teach at least one credit bearing class or lesson.
Question: In some recent literature, the SEIU and its supporters have attacked the per course compensation model that applies to part-time non-tenure track faculty at Northeastern. How are the faculty who are covered by the SEIU agreement compensated at AU?
Answer: It is surprising that the SEIU has attacked the per course compensation model because that is exactly what the union agreed to at AU, and at George Washington University (“GWU”) as well.
Question: What are the per course compensation rates at AU?
Answer: The rates vary based on the number of credits, but for a 3 or 4 credit course, the agreement requires AU to pay $4,000 for those faculty members with terminal degrees and $3,450 for those faculty members without terminal degrees.
Question: Are there any increases to the course rates during the life of the agreement?
Answer: No. There are no increases in the course rates during the term of the agreement. Those are the required rates through August 31, 2015.
Question: How do the rates in the AU agreement compare with course rates that Northeastern University pays to its part-time non-tenured track faculty?
Answer: The compensation rates currently in effect at Northeastern are much better than those the union negotiated at AU. In Northeastern’s colleges that focus on the traditional student population, compensation rates for a standard, semester-based 3 or 4 credit course typically start between $5,232 and $8,000, depending on the discipline.
It is more difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison in the College of Professional Studies because many courses are offered on a quarter-based system. We have always proceeded from the assumption that the teaching load associated with a quarter-based course amounts to approximately 75% of that associated with a semester based course. For undergraduate courses in CPS, our rates start range from $750 -- $918 per credit for a standard 3 or 4 credit course. When you convert the AU non-terminal degree rate, which is the most appropriate comparison, to a quarter-based rate, the range is $647 -- $863 per credit for a standard 3 or 4 credit course.
Question: Do part-time faculty members at AU receive health insurance?
Answer: No. Faculty covered by the SEIU-AU agreement do not receive health insurance.
Question: If there is no health insurance at AU, what benefits do those faculty members who are compensated by the course receive?
Answer: The agreement states only the following: “Employees receive benefits that are also provided to other individuals employed on a part-time basis by American University.” The agreement also gives AU the right to modify the benefits for covered faculty in the same manner as it does for other part-time employees.
Question: Are the AU faculty who are covered by
the agreement required to pay union dues?
Answer: The AU agreement is different from the GWU agreement on this point. Existing faculty are not required to join the union and pay union dues, or pay an agency service fee to the union as a condition of employment. However, with certain limited exceptions all newly hired faculty must either join the union and pay union dues, or pay an agency service fee as a condition of employment. An agency service fee is a payment to the union that reflects the cost of administering the collective bargaining agreement and representation by the union. It is usually very close in amount to full union dues.
Question: What do you mean when you say the faculty at AU have to either pay union dues or an agency service fee “as a condition of employment?”
Answer: It means that if a faculty member refuses to pay, then the union can demand that he/she be fired.
Question: How much are union dues?
Answer: The amount of the dues the union charges is not set forth in the contract, but we are aware of at least two figures that have been stated publicly about them. First, in the most recent Form LM-2 Annual Report the union filed with the U.S. Department of Labor on December 14, 2012 for the period October 1, 2011-September 30, 2012, the union stated that its regular dues were $26/pay check. However, in a post on Washington City Paper’s website on January 19, 2012, the union’s director of research and strategic planning was reported to have contested that figure, contending instead that the dues were $29/month.
Question: Are there any other fees that must be paid to the union?
Answer: The agreement does not indicate whether the union will also require newly hired faculty members to pay an initiation fee.
Question: What kind of job protection does the agreement provide?
Answer: The agreement provides that AU will give only “good faith consideration” to covered faculty members who have taught the same course for at least 3 semesters within the past 3 academic years, provided it is offered by AU within 1 academic year of the faculty member’s most recent assignment.
Pursuant to the agreement, “good faith consideration” means AU can deny or cancel a faculty member’s assignment in any number of circumstances, including:
- Cancellation of a course due to under-enrollment, as determined by AU;
- A reduction in the number of courses offered in a semester;
- Unsatisfactory performance of a faculty member;
- Elimination or downsizing of a department or program;
- Availability of a more qualified “adjunct instructor,” as determined by AU;
- Creation of a full-time position that absorbs the course(s) taught by a faculty member who is compensated on a per-course basis;
- Where the faculty member exceeds the maximum number of courses or credit hours permitted, as established by AU; and
- Other demonstrated reasons necessitating a change in academic, fiscal, program or organizational needs of AU.
The agreement also specifically states, “Decisions regarding who is taught, what is taught, how it is taught and who does the teaching involve academic judgment and shall be made at [AU]’s sole discretion.”
Question: How much advance notice must AU give a faculty member of his/her assignment?
Answer: The agreement does not require AU to give any specific amount of advance notice of an assignment to a covered faculty member. The agreement merely sets forth an obvious proposition: “it is in the best interests of the University and its employees to make an assignment as early as possible.”
Question: If a faculty member’s assignment is canceled, what does the agreement provide?
Answer: The agreement requires faculty members to provide at least one month of advance notice if the faculty member is unable to fulfill his/her assignments(s) except in circumstances where the required notice is beyond the faculty member’s reasonable control. The agreement does not require AU to provide any specific amount of notice if it cancels a faculty member’s assignment. However, if AU cancels a course within three weeks of the date of the first class, AU must pay a $300 course reduction fee to the faculty member.
Question: What does the AU agreement provide for professional development?
Answer: AU and the union agreed to create a fund into which, over the 27 month term of the agreement, AU will contribute a total of $25,000 for professional development. Covered faculty members can apply for reimbursement of expenses related to professional development opportunities. If AU accepts a faculty member’s application, the reimbursement is limited to a maximum of $550 in an academic year.
Question: How does Northeastern support professional development for part-time faculty?
Answer: The University’s Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research supports all faculty members interested in improving their teaching. Part-time faculty members may also elect to participate in the intellectual life of their home departments, programs and colleges. Some departments and colleges elect to support part-time faculty with unit-based professional development funds. Some departments and colleges offer other opportunities specifically directed toward part-time faculty members. For example, in the College of Professional Studies, part-time faculty are invited to participate in a range of professional development activities, including a day-long series of workshops in August, a half-day series of workshops in January, webinars, residencies, and special topics lead by full-time faculty and staff in meetings. Professional development opportunities are designed and facilitated by faculty and staff.
Question: What kind of “voice” does the agreement provide for faculty members?
Answer: The agreement states that a joint committee will be created to discuss issues of mutual interest to faculty members and AU. The committee may make non-binding recommendations.
Question: If I want to review the SEIU-AU collective bargaining agreement for myself, where can I find a copy?
Answer: We have posted the SEIU-AU collective bargaining agreement here: http://www.northeastern.edu/part-timeinfo/.