Georgetown University’s contract with its union of adjunct professors is a significant model that merits replication in other institutions of higher education, says a new report issued by the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, entitled Just Employment in Action: Adjunct Unionization and Contract Negotiation at Georgetown University.
Two years after they began organizing with Local 500 of the Service Employees International Union, adjunct professors ratified a union contract with Georgetown University in October 2014. From the beginning of the adjuncts’ decision to organize a union, the university’s response was guided by its Just Employment Policy, which was adopted in 2005. That policy, which acknowledged the rights of employees to freely associate and organize, helped insure that the union certification and the contract negotiation processes occurred in a notably open and collaborative environment.
This contract between the adjunct union and Georgetown University arrives at a time when other institutions of higher education are strongly resisting adjunct unionization. Some institutions, even those that share a connection to a religious tradition similar to Georgetown’s, have argued that their religious identity should exempt them from laws such as the National Labor Relations Act that protect the rights of adjunct faculty. Given this increasingly conflict-laden national context, it is all the more remarkable that the university and the adjunct union were able to reach their contract agreement while maintaining a high level of cooperation and respect on both sides of the bargaining table.
The Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor has undertaken this report to better explain the history and the context that led to the Georgetown agreement. This report details how this agreement came about and suggests ways in which other institutions of higher education can fulfill their potential to act as model employers—and as better anchor institutions in their communities—by recognizing the rights of their workers and committing to pay them a living wage.
On June 11, DC Jobs with Justice, the Jobs With Justice Education Fund, the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and the Kalmanovitz Initiative released the first-ever study on service sector scheduling practices in Washington, DC.
The report, “Unpredictable, Unsustainable: The Impact of Employers’ Scheduling Practices in DC,” draws on a survey conducted in 2015 with hundreds of people employed in the District, focusing on the retail and restaurant/food service industries—the broadest citywide study of scheduling practices in the service industry to date. The findings received widespread media coverage, including from the Washington City Paper and the Washington Post.
In line with previous research, it finds that “just in time” approaches to scheduling negatively impact many DC employees’ lives, often resulting in erratic and unpredictable hours for the women and men who serve our food, stock our shelves, and sweep our floors. Employees are granted too few hours on too short notice, resulting in unpredictable incomes and work schedules that make it hard to budget, arrange childcare, continue with education, or hold down a second job to try to make ends meet.
Key findings include:
Low Pay Common
The typical employee works 32 hours per week at a pay rate of $10 per hour resulting in an annual income of approximately $16,000.
More Hours Needed
Four out of five people said it was very important or somewhat important to get more hours.
Second Jobs Required
Nearly one-quarter of individuals work at least one additional job.
A typical respondent faces a 13 hour range in weekly hours per month, receiving as little as 25 hours some weeks and a high of 38 hours in other weeks.
Lack of Advance Notice
Nearly half of employees reported first learning of their work schedules less than one week in advance; one-third receive initial work schedules with less than three days’ notice; and nearly one-third of retail and restaurant/food service employees reported receiving less than 24 hours’ notice of schedule changes.
Life On Hold For On-Call Shifts
Individuals assigned on-call/call-in shifts appear to have a 50/50 chance of getting paid to work, despite holding time each week for their employers.
Half of those working in the restaurant/food service industry reported being sent home before working their full shifts.
Part-Time Work, Full-Time Availability
Sixty percent of individuals said they must always be available to fulfill any assigned work schedule—regardless of the days or hours—in order to be considered for full-time hours or the best shifts available.