Union rally at Occidental College

A faculty and student rally held this spring in support of the union effort.

EAGLE ROCK -- The non-tenured faculty at Occidental College have voted to unionize, setting the stage for the start of contract negotiations, according to the Service Employees International Union.

The results of Tuesday's ballot counting comes after faculty, students and other supporters spent several months organizing and drumming up support on the liberal arts campus. 

"We're heartened by the strong showing of support in today's vote by Occidental's faculty,” said Brian Clearwater, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, in a statement. “This puts us in a solid position to obtain a contract that reflects the excellent teaching and service that Occidental's non-tenure track faculty do.”

112 non-tenured faculty will be represented by SEIU 721, said union spokesman Mike Long.

Of those who cast ballots, the vote was 61 to 16 in favor of representation, according to the National Labor Relations Board.

A statement issued by Occidental College said it "respects the decision by the adjunct faculty to unionize" and "will bargain in good faith moving forward."

“The faculty are at the heart of the educational enterprise at Oxy,” said Dean of the College Wendy Sternberg in a statement. “Our students don't distinguish rank and title in the classroom, and it is the faculty-student relationship that is fundamental to the Oxy experience."

More than 13,000 instructors and graduate students nationwide have voted to unionize since SEIU launched its Faculty Forward initiative in 2013, the union said. Local colleges that have unionized under the initiative include Otis, USC, Whittier and now Occidental. 

Occidental union members will now decide on their priorities and then begin the process of bargaining a new contract with Occidental administrators, Long said. 

A story in the student-run The Occidental said non-tenured faculty make up about one-third of the college's professors but teach two-thirds of its courses.

Adjunct professors in general have less job protections and earn less pay and benefits than do tenured faculty.

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