IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) – A growing number of faculty at the University of Iowa are continuing their fight for better working conditions and wages.
Iowa Faculty Forward is a part of the national organization Service Employees International Union (SEIU). It’s made up of non-tenure track faculty such as instructors and lecturers.
They say faculty like them are poorly paid while facing an increasing course load. They’re fighting for a more equitable environment for non-tenured employees.
According to the group, they make up more than half of the university’s faculty, but they say they have little to no say about aspects of their employment.
On Wednesday night, Iowa Faculty Forward held a teach-in on what it calls the higher-education crisis.
“The purpose was to educate members I think and to hear from other folks who are involved in similar struggles to get better recognition and better workplace so they can do their job of teaching their students and doing their research better,” Landon Elkind, UI Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy, said.
For the teach-in, speakers and organizers from near and far spoke about the challenges they face as non-tenure track employees.
“I think we just got a lot of great concrete ideas for how to act, kind of steps we can take to build on the campaign that we’ve been building since last fall,” Elizabeth Weiss, UI Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing Lecturer, said.
One of the speakers was former Iowa Gubernatorial candidate and union advocate, Cathy Glasson.
“They are afraid of losing their power to you and they will do almost anything to keep it,” Glasson told the group.
Those apart of the organization demand more rights as university employees such as job security and higher wages.
“We need stability. We need healthcare coverage, especially dependent healthcare coverage for people who are married, for example,” Elkind said. “Without those things, it’s much harder to do our work effectively especially if we’re working more than one job.”
Elkind said the current work conditions only have a negative effect on the students they’re paid to teach.
“Contingent faculty at the University of Iowa are incredibly committed, gifted instructors,” Weiss said. “We’re researchers and scholars. We do creative work. We are a real presence on campus. We make a huge difference and we are committed to being here. It’s about time the university shows a real commitment to us.”
Currently, there are 200 university employees making up Iowa Faculty Forward.
While there was a lot of talk about unions at Wednesday’s event, the group has not petitioned to become one.