News & Commentary

April 1, 2019

Rachel Sandalow-Ash

Rachel Sandalow-Ash is a student at Harvard Law School and a member of the Labor and Employment Lab.

Adjunct faculty at Miami-Dade College (MDC) have voted to unionize with SEIU Florida; they will now constitute the largest adjunct faculty union in Florida and the “largest single-school adjunct collective bargaining unit in the country.”  Adjunct faculty are excited to build on their union election victory to secure more public investment in higher education and improved wages and working conditions.  Ximena Barrientos, an adjunct professor of earth sciences, said, “We’re tired of watching our students go to food banks because tuition keeps rising.  I’m tired of worrying about bill collectors when I should be worried about lesson plans.  By standing up with one voice, we can demand the investment we need for our students and colleagues throughout Florida.”  The 2,790 adjunct faculty at MDC are currently paid $2,460 per three-credit course and do not receive health care benefits.


Dining hall workers at Tufts, represented by UNITE HERE Local 26, have reached a tentative first contract with the University after an overwhelming strike authorization vote two weeks ago.  Under the tentative agreement, workers will receive yearly wage increases and a more generous and affordable healthcare plan.  The university will also convert 50 workers on temporary contracts to regular employees with full union benefits and protections.  Workers expressed enthusiasm about the tentative agreement. Christine Tringale, a night cook supervisor, said “For my family the insurance was really high, and it made it hard to save money and ever be comfortable . . . now that my insurance is going to be cheaper, and I’m going to be making living wages, I’ll be able to probably go on vacations with my family, spend more time [with them] and do things that I want to do.”  Instead of going on strike, the dining hall workers will vote on the contract this coming Wednesday.


The New York State Nurses Association has decided to postpone its strike over safe staffing levels at three New York City hospital systems.  As previously reported by OnLabor, an overwhelming 97% of the over 10,000 nurses who work for these hospital systems voted to authorize the strike, which was set to begin on Tuesday, April 2nd.  In response to the strike threat, the hospitals offered $50 million to hire more nurses, leading the nurses to postpone the strike in the hopes of reaching an agreement.  However, the two sides remain far apart, as the hospitals have refused to accept the union’s call for guaranteed maximum patient-to-nurse ratios.  In a New York Times piece, nurses described the challenges of trying to care for too many patients at once.  For instance, Shana Murphy, a neonatal intensive care nurse at Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital, said, “I’m often put in a situation where I’m having to choose between patients and not able to fully support my [patient’s] families.”


Alex Press writes in Jacobin about how professional workers — such as “teachers, engineers, graduate students, and journalists” — are part of the working class and need unions just as much as manufacturing or service workers.  Press explains that while employers try to dissuade professional employees from unionizing by telling them that they are “privileged,” in reality, professional workers experience significant economic instability due to low pay, precarious employment, and high levels of student and consumer debt.  Moreover, Press writes that “unionizing one workplace makes it easier to unionize another;” and that when professional workers unionize, they “build up unions’ coffers [and] strengthen a culture of unionism.”

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