tc3A majority of adjunct professors at Tompkins Cortland Community College signed authorization cards in support of affiliating with New York State United Teachers, citing job security as a major factor in the drive to unionize.

The new unit — known as the TC3 Adjunct Association — would represent more than 250 adjunct members. They would be joining the 20,000 adjuncts from colleges such as the State University of New York at Cortland, Syracuse University and Finger Lakes and Mohawk Valley Community Colleges now represented by NYSUT affiliates.

"I don't see forming a union as anti-management but rather as pro-adjunct and pro-college," said Diane Williams, a 22-year adjunct instructor in biology at TC3. "Like many adjuncts here, I have a good relationship with administration. Yet, even after 22 years, I still face the possibility each semester that a course I have been teaching will be assigned to someone else."

Williams added that granting adjuncts due process and awarding multi-term appointments to those who have performed well would benefit the college by helping it continue to attract and retain top-notch adjuncts for years to come.

"That can only be a positive for a college like ours, where adjuncts teach the bulk of the courses," she said.

An estimated 56 percent of the classes at TC3 are taught by adjuncts, according to a report by the bargaining unit's Organizing Committee. That percentage is higher than the national average of 51.2 percent as determined by the University of Southern California in its "Delphi Project" report examining the nation's non-profit academic workforce.

A letter signed by more than 100 adjuncts urging the college to voluntarily recognize the union and not waste public money on long legal delays — (view the union's request for support here) — was presented recently to the TC3 Board of Trustees. Should the college refuse to recognize the unit, organizers will petition the state Public Employment Relations Board to certify the union. The tactic of pushing fledgling bargaining units into extensive and costly PERB proceedings is often used by colleges looking to derail unionizing efforts.

"Teaching is my career and my passion and I pride myself on my dedication to my profession and my students," said Robert Earle, an adjunct instructor in philosophy, sociology and English at TC3 and SUNY Cortland, who is teaching 18 credits this semester.

Earle said that despite teaching more credits per semester than what's required of full-time faculty, he still earns significantly less than what the lowest-paid full-time faculty member does, making it a struggle for him and his wife to support themselves and their 10-month-old daughter.

"I refuse to be ashamed about asserting my need to have reasonable, and regular, guaranteed pay increases," he said. "Every other employee at TC3 has those and that's because they have union representation. As the employees responsible for the majority of the instruction that happens at TC3, we deserve nothing less."

Organizing Committee members met Oct. 21 with the Tompkins County Legislature. Gregg Weatherby, an adjunct instructor in English, urged county lawmakers — who approved $2.9 million in funding to the college this year — to contact TC3 President Carl Haynes and the Board of Trustees and urge them to not waste taxpayer money delaying the recognition of a union that a majority of adjuncts approved.

"The adjuncts at TC3 are dedicated professionals whose work is indispensable," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee. "All they are asking for is respect and dignity, which a union would ensure. It is time for the college to recognize the TC3 Adjuncts Association. Day-in and day-out, the adjuncts prove their worth to TC3 and now it's time the college shows them the respect they deserve."