Adjunct faculty in Washington, D.C., organized through the Service Employees International Union made major progress in an attempt to create a much-needed common labor agreement.

At the national town hall event hosted by Georgetown last Monday, where adjunct professors are in the process of negotiating their first union contract, 40 adjunct instructors from across the city discussed a master agreement that would set minimum pay levels for adjuncts at all colleges in the District. The agreement would provide adjuncts with health and retirement benefits prorated to the number of hours worked and would include Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia, the two major remaining D.C. universities whose adjunct professors are early in the process of unionization.

As area colleges continue to rely more on adjuncts to teach basic classes, unionization is an effective means of giving these faculty members a collective voice and much-deserved benefits.

According to The New York Times, a quarter of the nation’s workforce in higher education is tenured or on track for tenure. The majority of college professors hold jobs with less favorable average salary, benefits and job stability than those of tenured professors. The SEIU unionization strategy has been gaining momentum in a commendable attempt to close this inequality gap.

The Georgetown adjunct vote to unionize last spring was the most recent major victory for adjuncts on campus and around the city, but we are comforted by the fact that the Hilltop has been so willing to encourage the SEIU’s motions to promote equality among college instructors, without regard for tenure status.

In D.C., about 70 percent of the city’s adjunct professors now belong to SEIU-affiliated collective-bargaining units. If Howard and UDC were to join this movement, SEIU’s efforts would apply to more than 80 percent of the District’s part-time faculty members — a reinvigorating move for instructor equality.

As colleges continue to rely on adjunct faculty, pushing for adjunct unionization in the District becomes ever more important. It is promising to see Georgetown host events that support that goal.

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