Strike averted as non-staff faculty and Howard University reach tentative agreement

Non-tenured faculty at Howard University struck and averted a tentative contract agreement with the school in the wee hours of Wednesday morning Strike planned for this week.

A small group of faculty, negotiators and supporting students gathered at the flagpole near the center of campus to celebrate the news later in the morning. The mood was tired – negotiators sat at the table until 3:30 – but upbeat.

“I really want to applaud my colleagues for what they have been able to achieve by standing up for themselves, working to make this a better place to work, a better place to teach and a better place to learn and a better institution of higher Learning,” said English lecturer Cyrus Hampton.

Details of what are actually two separate agreements – one for full-time non-permanent teachers and one for part-time staff – were not immediately available, but union officials said they felt both contracts were fair. Union members must first read the collective agreements, which are expected to be published next week.

The two proposed three-year contracts must be ratified by a vote of union members and approved by Howard University President Wayne AI Frederick.

The Faculty Association’s Twitter account called The agreement between the union and the university is a “historic achievement in improving the lives of faculty and strengthening the Howard community as a whole”.

Agreement was a long time coming. The 350 unionized faculty — 150 full-time and 200 part-time — have been at the negotiating table with the university for almost four years, far longer than negotiations normally take, particularly in the case of full-time staff. Her union, SEIU Local 500, accused the university of bargaining in bad faith and refusing to provide information in filings with the National Labor Relations Board.

Howard University has consistently denied allegations that it blocked the collective bargaining process. in the a statement Regarding the tentative agreement with the union, the university said it was committed to negotiating in good faith.

“We have stood firm in our commitment to respect the negotiation process to which our union faculty is entitled, and in the spirit of that commitment, our leaders remained in hours of negotiations until an agreement was reached,” the university said in a statement. “Our contingent faculty is a respected part of our institution.”

Organizers say they believe the threat of a strike, coupled with solidarity from the rest of the Howard community, has prompted the two sides to finally find common ground.

“Only the massive increase in support over the past two weeks has been significant,” said English teacher Kevin Modestino, a union member who took part in the negotiations. “I think we’ve shown that we’re integral parts of Howard University, that we’re not just a temporary faculty in the basement, we’ve been here a long time and will be here for a long time.”

Ensuring a living wage has long been a key concern of Howard’s part-time faculty. Full-time faculty at the school earn an average of less than $50,000 a year, according to 2018-2019 school year data from the Chronicle of Higher Education — in DC, where the cost of living is high. The union is also pushing to increase pay for part-time workers, which is currently just $4,000 per class, well below the pay of their full-time counterparts.

A union representative who spoke to the press for background information said the new agreement had “dramatically” closed that gap, but added that there was still work to be done. The rep also said the contract represents a “progress” in the faculty’s effort to prioritize the auxiliary faculty when full-time opportunities open up.

Job security was another major concern for the union. Currently, full-time non-tenure track faculty members must reapply for their position each year, and the university terminates their full-time status after seven years, forcing some to become part-time. Modestino said the union had made “significant progress in opening up career path status,” but didn’t go into details.

Howard students celebrated along with their teachers on Wednesday.

“I find it exciting and really shocking to see how the government has come this far in the past few days,” said sophomore Tia-Andrea Scott. “With other student movements, we’ve seen a lot of resistance and a lot of gaslighting from the administration.”

Scott said many students had planned not to attend classes if the faculty strike went ahead, saying doing so would constitute crossing a picket line. Howard University had prepared other faculties to run the classes of striking members.

Final year Howard students including Scott, stages their own protest to another topic. They occupied the Blackburn Student Center building and surrounding area to demand that the administration fix the poor conditions in the dormitories. Temporary teachers said the student standoff, which lasted about 35 days, partly inspired their strike plans.

“If I know anything about the students and faculty at Howard University, it’s that there will always be a movement for something better,” Scott said.

The post Strike averted as non-staff faculty and Howard University reach tentative agreement appeared first DCist.

https://dcist.com/story/22/03/23/howard-university-lecturers-union-strike/ Strike averted as non-staff faculty and Howard University reach tentative agreement


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