Q. I understand that a union represents adjuncts at American University; is that correct?
A. Yes, certain adjuncts at AU are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500,
Q. Is there a union contract in place and, if so, where can I find it?
A. Yes, the Union and AU entered into a Collective Bargaining Agreement that took effect on December 9, 2019 and runs through August 31, 2021. The Agreement is online at http://w.american.edu/provost/comm/SEIU-Contract.pdf
Q. Do I have to join the Union in order to teach as an adjunct faculty member at AU?
A. No one is required to join the Union. Whether you are required to either join the Union or pay an agency fee (a service charge as a contribution toward the cost of administration of the Agreement and representation by the Union), however, depends on when you were hired by AU, as well as the nature of your other employment.
Some adjuncts are not covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and therefore do not have to join the Union or pay an agency fee. Article 1 of the CBA specifies who is covered by the Agreement and who is not. See FAQ, "Am I covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement?"
Adjuncts covered by the CBA who were first hired by AU prior to June 1, 2013, are not required to join the Union or pay an agency fee, but may voluntarily decide to do so (Article 9, Section 9.6.C).
Adjuncts covered by the CBA who were first hired to teach after June 1, 2013, must either join the Union or pay an agency fee unless they are exempt. (Article 9, Section 9.6.C). Adjuncts "who, because of the nature of their employment outside of American University, are prevented from paying dues or an agency fee to a labor organization are exempt from this requirement." The exempt categories listed in Article 9, Section 9.6.D include people who:
- Are members of federal, state, or District of Columbia judicial, legislative, or executive branches of government;
- Hold diplomatic or ambassador status;
- Are full or part-time employees of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank Group;
- Are not paid directly by the University and whose services are instead procured through a contractual arrangement between the University and the employee's primary employer;
- Are retired full-time University faculty who have emeritus status;
- Are appointed to teach a compressed course (i.e., six weeks or fewer in duration);
- Affirm that, due to the nature of their employment outside of American University, they are prevented from paying dues or an agency fee to a labor organization because so doing would inhibit the ability of the employee to perform services for his or her non-University employer. Employees exempted under this Section 9.6(D)(7) shall be required to make contributions in an amount equal to the agency fee to a charitable organization(s) of the employee's choice, in lieu of paying the agency fee to the Union.
Q. Am I covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement?
A. Article 1, Section 1.3.A. defines who is a member of the bargaining unit, and therefore covered by the Agreement. The Agreement covers “adjunct faculty employed by the University in Washington, D.C., teaching at least one credit bearing class or lesson,” but excludes "all other employees, full-time faculty, lab assistants, graduate assistants, clinical fellows, teaching fellows, teaching assistants, research assistants, degree-seeking students of the University including those with adjunct appointments, full-time staff whose adjunct teaching is not compensated additionally for teaching, administrators who have teaching responsibilities, managers, guards, and supervisors."
If you are a member of the bargaining unit as defined in Article 1, you are covered by the Agreement and represented by the Union, whether or not you join the Union.
Q. What if I teach online or at an AU Abroad site?
A. Adjunct faculty teaching off-campus, for example, at an AU Abroad site, are not covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Adjuncts teaching exclusively online who have no on-campus responsibilities and who are based outside of Washington, DC, are also regarded as teaching off-campus and therefore are not covered by the Agreement. Consequently, they do not have to pay dues or fees.
Q. If I decide not to join the Union, am I still covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement?
A. You are covered by the Agreement if you are a member of the bargaining unit as defined in Article 1, Section 1.3.A, whether or not you join the Union. See FAQ "Am I covered by the Collective Bargaining Agreement?"
Q. Where can I find an explanation of my rights and responsibilities under the Collective Bargaining Agreement?
A. The Agreement itself is the best source for understanding your rights and responsibilities. The Agreement is online at http://w.american.edu/provost/comm/SEIU-Contract.pdf
Q. What is "good faith consideration" for course assignment?
A. If you are in good standing (i.e., have not been subject to any disciplinary action), have taught the same course for at least three semesters in the past three academic years, and the same course is going to be offered again within one year of your most recent assignment, you are eligible for good faith consideration. This means that you can request assignment to teach the course again, and that request will only be denied under certain specific circumstances. Those circumstances are listed in Article 6, Section 6.2.A.
Q. Do I have to request good faith consideration in order to receive it?
A. Yes, Article 6, Section 6.3.B. specifies how to go about requesting good faith consideration.
Q. Will the Collective Bargaining Agreement change how my teaching is evaluated?
A. Article 7 of the Agreement specifies a process for evaluating adjunct teaching. Although each teaching unit at AU may have slightly different guidelines for evaluating teaching, they will all meet the requirements of the Agreement. In most cases, you will not see a substantial change from prior evaluations.
Q. Does the Collective Bargaining Agreement address pay rates for adjuncts?
A. Yes. Article 8 of the CBA addresses compensation. Appendices at the end of the CBA provide the minimum base rates for typical credit-bearing courses and for miscellaneous compensation in other circumstances.
Q. What should I do if I think the university is not living up to its obligations under the Collective Bargaining Agreement?
A. Article 4 specifies a process for adjuncts to pursue if they believe university is not living up to its obligations under the Agreement. Both the University and the Union encourage adjuncts to seek an informal resolution of a problem before initiating the formal process.
Q. Who should I contact if I have questions?
A. If you have questions about an AU issue, start with your department chair or program director. If they cannot answer your question, each school or college will have an administrator in the office of the dean assigned to answer questions about adjuncts and the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If you have questions about the Agreement it is also appropriate to contact the Union. Please see the listing on this webpage for appropriate contacts in your School/College and in the Office of the Provost.
Q: How do I go about joining SEIU Local 500 or finding out more about union membership?
A: Adjunct faculty interested in information about joining the union should contact SEIU Local 500.